Iron Reign

Welcome to Iron Reign

Iron Reign @ Science and Engineering Magnet

Team 6832 Members:

  • Dylan Chorley
  • Evan Daane
  • Ethan Helfman
  • Omar Ramirez
  • Caitlin Rogers
  • Jayesh Sharma
  • Darshan Patel
  • Maximillian Virani
  • Tycho Virani

Articles by section: team

Season Startup Team Meet

05 Sep 2015
Season Startup Team Meet By Max, Tycho, Omar, Caitlin, Trace, Evan, Darshan

Task: Discuss the upcoming FTC Season

This meet we discussed topics concerning the upcoming FTC season. Our sister team, Imperial Robotics, was also over getting their robot working with the new motor controllers. We went over basics that we should do to be a better team this season. We went around deciding tasks each member would be in charge of, whether it was logistics, organization, or our business plan. We also discussed how we should promote our team. Evan especially was enthusiastic about reaching out and taking charge of our business plan.

Reflections

We realized that to be an accomplished team we each need to know we should be doing. With the game being released next Saturday, we will have to be precise in what we do and how we do thing this season.

Daily Organization

26 Sep 2015
Daily Organization By Caitlin, Darshan, Evan, Omar, Max, Tycho, Dylan, Alisa

Task: Get in the habit of organizing daily

We have never had a great track record of having an organized workspace, so each member was greeted with the new rule as we entered.
Hopefully this will save us a lot of time in the future because everyone will contribute a little to the effort.

Reflections

Once we figured out what we were going to organize the effort went faster than expected. A bowl of assorted pieces was out on the table, and it was half empty in less than 20 minutes.
The hex keys are lined up on the work table magnet and hopefully they'll be put back in place as soon as someone is done. We probably started with 3 or 4 wrenches last year, and we only have one at this point. The USB cord drawer has been organized with gallon sized bags for each type, micro, mini, and standard, where it was originally a rat's nest of tangled wires. The giant metal file is still lost, but hopefully it will show up as we clean through the meets.

Video Ideas

31 Oct 2015
Video Ideas By Alisa, Dylan, Ethan

Task: Watching videos to get ideas for our robot

Dylan, Ethan, and I decided to watch videos to see what other teams were doing to build and improve their robots during the Circle Meeting outside. We wanted to see if any of the designs were successful so we could learn from them. The videos included Robot in Three Days, RiTD Explained, and Trojan Robotics .

Reflections

Every video we watched was ahead of us; we have a long way to go in building our robot. It can climb up the ramp a bit, but we really need to make an arm mechanism, figure out how to grab the balls and cube, and increase traction on the mountain. In addition, we have to program more. We're probably a few weeks behind Trojan Robotics in the video we watched.

Helping the Travis Team

08 Nov 2015
Helping the Travis Team By Tycho

Task: Teach Travis Team how to Use Previous Team's Code

After retiring from FLL at Travis, we decided to share our code library with the other team from the school. We set up a meet with Clay, one of the main programmers of the team, so we could teach him how to use our core functions; the next step is for him to teach the other members of his team how to use the code.

Reflections:

I spent a couple of hours to teach Clay how to use our most essential code segments; he now knows how to use a proportional line follower, maintain a heading using the gyro, how to make accurate turns using the gyro and how to calibrate the robot so that the robot knows how many wheel rotations it takes to move the robot one centimeter.

Helping the Travis Team

03 Dec 2015
Helping the Travis Team By Tycho

Task: Help the William B. Travis FLL Team

Starting September 10th and lasting through today, I went to our old middle school, William B. Travis, to help their newer FLL team with robot design and programming. There were also some one on one sessions during practice to teach their main programmer, who used to be on the older FLL team until it disbanded, how to use the code library that we had previously written. I also went to a scrimmage with them to help them come up with new design ideas and strategies for the game.

Reflections

September 3 Practice:
  First meet; set up the field and build the field elements; talk about the project
September 10 Practice:
 Project talk; we talked about earlier projects and came up with ideas- people who came up with ideas were assigned to research further
September 17 Practice:
 Talked about programming; I introduced them to our PID code that we wrote for EV3. More project brainstorming. Research done was reported back.
September 24 Practice:
 Demo of gyro sensor; how to install and how to program. Talked about core values and team logo.
October 1 Practice:
 Focused on strategy and robot build; designing a launching jig for the robot and taught arrays in EV3.
October 8 Practice:
 Build team refined chassis and attachments; beginning of game programming in earnest. Taught line following.
October 15 Practice:
 Wrote a list of our main goals that we wanted to have done by the upcoming scrimmage; talked about game choreography.
October 22 Practice:
 Refined robot game program & design; settled on project idea (recyclable pizza box)
October 24 1-on-1 & After-school Prep:
 Helped Clay, a 7th grader who was on our old FLL team until it disbanded, prepare for the TA role in the beginner after-school robotics club that we established when we first founded our team. I created kits for the basic robots and taught him the basics of what to talk about. I also taught him how to use the core functions Alisa and I wrote for FLL (calibration, line following, maintaining a heading, gyro turns, etc.)so that he could share the knowledge with his team.
October 29 Practice:
 Last preparations before the scrimmage that weekend. Refined the game program and launching jog for the robot.
October 31 Scrimmage:
 Helped the team get an idea of what the actual competition would be like; we practised game choreography and handling the robot.
November 5 Practice:
 Wrote and practised the script and song for the project and refined some design flaws discovered at the scrimmage.
November 12 Practice:
 Refined the design and project; designed and built a new launching jig that could be easily tuned using worm gears to launch at a different angle.
November 19 Practice:
 Talked about strategy and tuned the game program; practised the project
November 26 Practice:
 Third to last practice - Significant amount of time practising the project and tuning the game program.
December 3 Practice:
 Last practise - Final preparations before the competition; tuning and logistics.

Thinking about Effort

06 Dec 2015
Thinking about Effort by Omar

Task: Think about our robot's design both for now and for the future


Today, I decided to list our different options when it comes to design and on how much effort they would take on a numerical scale from 0 to 7. 0 means no effort would be needed at all (none of our options are currently here), and 7 means that the option is almost not practical based on the work we'd need to put in, but would be a huge benefit on our robot. It's a direct proportion of benefit to effort.

Reflections

On average, the different options require a medium amount of effort on the scale based on different positions on the robot. The different images put on the scale helps us to determine which of our possible courses of finishing our robot will be most beneficial both in mechanical value and in amount of time it will take for us to finish the task. As we discuss which of our future possible courses will be our final design, this graphic gives a great planning tool to determine which course will help us and which path we will choose to stick to.

Scrimmage at Greenhill

11 Dec 2015
Scrimmage at Greenhill By Darshan, Alisa, Omar, Caitlin, Max, Tycho, Evan

Task: Practice with other teams and see

This past Friday, the team tried to get the robot working in a small scrimmage with seven or so other teams. At the scrimmage, we managed to get our cow-catcher working, even though we nearly burned out our servo. During the process of finding the right positioning and testing it while driving we managed to tear up quite a few rubber inserts on our treads. Even though the scrim was scheduled to start at 6, no one ended up competing in a single match. Along with us, there were only two other teams that were even driving their robots, Imperial Robotics and Technical Difficulties. But when we were testing driving we saw that our robot needed a little help getting up the ramp, if it could at all. We also tried to get our autonomous going, but it went nowhere. Compared to other teams we might not be that far behind, but we feel that we should be much farther. And even though we didn't compete, we were at least able see how the robot drove and handled.

Reflections

We now feel like we need to gain a new sense of urgency. With our first qualifier only about three or so weeks away we are running short of time. We also feel that if we plan on being a top contender we need to be on a whole other level. Our robot itself isn't in the worst of conditions but we need to be upgrading and testing, both our physical robot and our code: autonomous and tele-op. We also need to focus on our final design of the robot, incorporating them into our code as we approach our qualifier date. We were able to learn a lot about possible pathways to take in terms of our code in tele op and autonomous and we plan to implement these ideas onto our robot in the coming practices.

General Blog Improvements

27 Dec 2015
General Blog Improvements By Caitlin

Task: Make blog more accessible and simpler to write for

In a rough order, here are the things I've worked on in the blog over the past month or so:

  • Add a readable nav-bar and fix header text color
  • Add About page structure for new members to fill in
  • Resize a bunch of images to fit the 600 px width, and a couple that were too tall
  • Create tag-specific post pages
  • Make these tag pages Case-Insensitive so posters could tag "Design" or "design"
  • Add Div wrappers around newly created pages so the margins work
  • Add a Date limit on the printable version of the blog so only this season's posts print

Reflections

The first draft of the tag page came from Christian Specht's great guide. This created a bulleted list of all posts in that tag, which I edited to show the post content in the same way the main page does. The drawback with this method is that it is Case-Sensitive, and a new folder and index page must be made for the individual tags you want to access. The code from the above guide is
{% for post in site.tags[page.tag] %}
while to make the search Case-Insensitive I needed
{% for post in site.posts %}
{% assign tagArray = "" | split: "/" %}
{% for item in post.tags %}
{% assign tagDowncased = item | downcase %}
{% assign tagArray = tagArray | push: tagDowncased %}
{% endfor %}
{% if tagArray contains page.tag %}

2nd version from this stackoverflow question

When we print our blog out to give to judges, we use a different version of the main index page that doesn't truncate the post. Last year we didn't have to worry about printing old posts, but now we needed a way to stop when a certain date was reached. This may seem like a trivial thing, just add an if statement in the already existing loop, but liquid isn't the most cooperative of languages. I couldn't find someone with the exact question as my own, but this question about matching years was similar enough to give me a place to start. I used the Shopify website's date filter guide and this extremely helpful Shopify Cheat Sheet to get the date as "YYYYMMDD" This returned the date as a String, which was converted to an integer by adding 0.
Final version:
{% for post in site.posts %}
{% capture comparableDate %} {{ post.date | date: "%Y%m%d" }} {% endcapture %}
{% assign comparableDate = comparableDate | plus: 0 %}
{% if comparableDate >= 20150424 %}

The blog back-end probably won't be touched during normal practice times anymore as competition deadlines are threateningly close.

I Still Won on the Inside… 2016 FTC Qualifier at Wylie

09 Jan 2016
I Still Won on the Inside… 2016 FTC Qualifier at Wylie By Jayesh, Omar, Darshan, Max, Tycho, Evan, Ethan, Alisa, Caitlin, Trace, and Dylan

Starting out

Just as in previous years, Iron Reign set off about half an hour late. We REALLY need to get everything not directly on the robot printed, boxed up, and loaded the night before - at the latest. Now that we have 11 members, we needed another person to help carpool, and Jayesh’s dad was thankfully willing to help. (note from omar: we definitely did not get lost on the way there)

When we arrived at the competition we set up shop behind Imperial Robotics, our sister team, and plugged in our battery box in the power strip in the back. It was frustratingly far away, but at least it kept all our stuff in one spot without having to use multiple outlets.

Scouting

This was the first year that we as a team really took scouting seriously. Taking advice from FTC Robotics Tips, Tricks, Strategies, and Secrets, we created an Excel spreadsheet with rows for each team and columns for strengths and weaknesses in TeleOp and automonous. This allowed us to effectively gauge the strengths and weaknesses of other teams, whether opponents or partners. When we first arrived Dylan, Alisa, and Evan walked around and " interviewed " teams in the pits, distributing our fliers and taking notes. The scouts split into two groups to make the process more efficient, and effectively turned it into a game, seeing who could cover the most ground. By taking notes on previous matches, we were able to predict the outcome of our first match and the reasoning behind it.

Mechanical and Software progress

Due to a dead servo that we detected just before our first match, we spent most of our pit repair and testing time focused on our cliff climbing mechanism. Because of a lack of testing the night before, we failed to notice that our aiming servo for our tape measure wasn’t working, and probably hadn’t been for a day or two. Unfortunately we only had one extra servo with us, one that had a different internal range than the other. Our initial angle in our programming was fine, but the next preset value was off. We spent most of our available time tuning and fixing this problem, as it was, and still is, our main focus in tele-op point wise.

We didn’t really attempt even the most basic autonomous. Earlier we have had issues with the robot driving backwards when testing, even after switching signs multiple times. Because we weren’t sure how the robot would react, or if it would at all, we decided to play it safe. The field debris can pose a real danger to our tank tread system, since neither our cow-catcher nor side shields were on. We used a long tetrix piece as a front guard, but we didn’t really trust it enough for autonomous since it bent badly even when pushing only a couple of blocks.

Match Overviews

Match 1
Discovered that the servo that controlled our Cliff Hanger’s (tape measure) elevation was not working. So we were completely unable to climb. At first our teleop program didn’t start - there was pop-up on our phone screen and we were not allowed to touch it. Thankfully a FIRST official reached in and restarted our robot, and we were able to move around after losing about 30 seconds. It was very hard to move around because our plough was detached. Mostly the value of this match was in discovering the problems with the Cliff Hanger servo. (Which should have been detected and replaced the night before)
Match 2
We weren’t able to reattach our climber mechanism, which meant that we were pretty useless, and our ally robot disconnected, resulting in a loss.
Match 3
We were able to get the climber on and actually reached the mid zone, however our ally robot disconnected (see a pattern here?) and the enemy scored more blocks than us.
Match 4
Robot decided to turn off and we only won because some of the debris landed in our field boxes and less landed in theirs. Lady luck smiled upon us. We really needed a win and this was a much needed victory to restore our pre-match cred. Thank you whatever force gave us that win.
Match 5
All the robots' systems on the field failed to work in this bizarre match, where our roll with the debris secured us a low-scoring 5-0 win.
Before/During Finals Alliance Selection
Our scouts managed to do some fantastic work during alliance selection, nailing us two very solid teammates, one of whom was first seed. However, during the time that this was happening, one of our drivers had been practicing climbing the ramp when the robot fell down the incline on its side, shattering one of its tracks. Thankfully some extra was lent to us, and the problem was fixed quickly.
SemiFinal Match 1
This was the match that everything that we hoped to achieve in the game came to fruition. The robot was able to line up with the back ramp and get to the high zone. With the points from our alliance, we scored the highest amount of points in the tournament, securing us a place in the finals.
Final Match 1
Near the beginning of our first final match, an enemy robot turned its decently sharp corner into the side of our robot, breaking a tread and rendering us relatively useless during the rest of the match. Although disabled, our driver managed to limp the robot onto the mountain with the tape measure for some small points, which helped us win the match.
Final Match 2
We did not participate in this match; our two alliance partners did. Unfortunately, they experienced some technical difficulties during the match, and were not able to win, making the series tied 1 to 1.
Finals Match 3
This match did not go well for anyone. Beginning the match, one side of the robot began to run by itself, a known problem that we've had in the past. The way to fix it would have been to disconnect the controller from the phone, and reconnect it. However, this would not have been allowed, so our driver tried to deal with it. Unfortunately, control was lost after a while, and the robot disconnected at the very moment we had accidentally parked in front of the enemy's ramp, giving them serious penalty points. Our alliance partner had also encountered problems and could only perform similarly to us, which was doing nearly nothing. The enemy alliance won this match and earned their spot as first place.

Award Ceremony

At this point we had just lost the finals and most of the team was just downright depressed. We did receive an award for second place alliance but that didn’t mean we would advance to regionals. We also won the PTC Design award (kudos to Max and Tycho for doing basically everything). Thankfully, our two alliance partners were high enough in points that they advanced to the regionals despite us losing.

A Presentation for the Ages

10 Jan 2016
A Presentation for the Ages By Ethan, Jayesh, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Omar, Evan, Alisa

Task: Work on our presentation to the judges

Our main weakness in previous years had been our presentation. This year, we plan to change that. When our team was solely FLL, we practiced our presentations beforehand, so, we're applying that to this year. We've done 2-3 presentations so far and it seems it really helps us. As well, we're making a powerpoint presentation to assist us, giving us information we might forget and providing a visual aid. We also have a basic outline we're following.

Reflections

We still need to practice our presentation, as we all aren't great actors like Evan and Jayesh. As well, the making of the powerpoint presentation showed me just how much we need to focus on documenting our work and outreach activities.I hope, by tournament time, that our presentation will be ready.

Competition Post-Mortem

10 Jan 2016
Competition Post-Mortem By Caitlin, Jayesh, Darshan, Max, Tycho, Evan, Ethan, Alisa, Trace, and Dylan

Task: Analyze our successes and failures in the previous competition

After a rocky start and finish to our first qualifier yesterday we took today to have fun as a team and look at how we could improve for our next chance.

Reflections

Most of our -Need To Do's- are related to becoming more confident with the various tasks that we'll be doing in the pits and during competition. Since we found out about our dead servo 1-2 days after it died, it's obvious we need to have a more rigorous and regular testing program before matches.

We need to have a pre-flight test program or a short demo that allows the driver, or any member of the team optimally, to test all functions of the robot after the day ends and before the tournament starts. It would be ideal to have a short version of this program to test before each match in the Queue. This would allow us to check if everything is working early on so we have a chance to fix it, or be able to strategize with our alliance if something unexpectedly breaks.

Our pit crew needs to practice repairs. We had a LOT of trouble trying to fix our robot in the various errors we encountered during the competition. During testing, we broke a couple of our tread pieces and luckily we were able to borrow some treads from another team. However, it took nearly an entire match for us to replace a broken servo for our climber, and gettig it re-aligned took eve longer with the robot. We need to bring backups of our major parts in case of a failure like that again

During yesterday's competition we didn't do any autonomous because of our back plate and the lack of testing on the existing code. We feel that we would have had a real shot at the higher awards if we had something in place, even if untested and basic. The Innovate team of judges seemed really impressed by our color-blob detection and robot in general really, but we didn't have a program to tie together our tests. This was a major deciding factor. Our autonomous is always our weak spot in matches, and can play a huge role in setting teams apart

Post Writing Guide for Team Members

18 Jan 2016
Post Writing Guide for Team Members By Caitlin

So as I've made changes to the blog I've realized that not everyone understands the little rules or guidelines I've made, but never quite explained. Following is a mock post, the content is a guide on what to put in each section.

Frontmatter:

title: This should be a short descriptive heading for the post
tags: [comma, separated, list] choose tags from this tag page as they are the only ones searchable. The tags are case-INsensitive, so they don't need to be capitalized or lowercase anymore. When choosing award tags look through this summary of each award. As a rule of thumb, all outreach will be tagged motivate and/or connect award, depending on the type of event.
section: one of the following ==> team, engineering, business <== no others!
personhours: How long did the task take X the number of people who worked on it. Give 1 SINGLE NUMBER! If multiplied out you get 4 hours and 30 minutes, type in 4.5. Make sure you put a space between the ":" and the number. for example: "personhours: 3.25"
rollcall: [comma, separated, list] First names only (!!!) of the people working on the topic. Author of the post is first in the array, then other people.

Task: a restatement of the title, or a more specific description of what you worked on

Why is this task necessary, what were the previous iterations, and why did we move away from that? How do you think the new iteration will work? How did you start

Reflections

This should be the largest section. How did it work out? What steps did you go through, and what did you find while working. Did you hit any snags or find out anything interesting?


Extra Notes!

Images: Width MUST be 600 px, and height must be no larger. Basically, landscape or square, no portrait. This helps with printing the blog out and formatting in general. Edit the size in Photoshop, don't stretch in the html tag. When using phone images, check the file extension! Someone's phone on the team gives ".PNG" instead of ".png" and jekyll will break.
Also, place the img tag outside of all paragraphs so we don't get weird word wrapping. You can use multiple paragraph tags in the task or reflections section if you want an image in the middle.
All mechanical posts MUST have a picture and/or diagram
Embedded videos: Use the default Youtube width. Make sure the thumbnail image is representative of the topic, not like the team logo or something. When printing, all we see is the thumbnail.
References: If you watched a video or read another article/forum post about the topic, link them! Always give credit where credit is due. Check this post for an example.

Nolan Qualifier

31 Jan 2016
Nolan Qualifier By Ethan, Caitlin, Jayesh, Darshan, Max, Tycho, Evan, Alisa, Trace, and Dylan

Task: To review our last tournament

Beginnings

Due to the team taking a bus with Imperial Robotics, we arrived to the competition a little late. However, due to an organizer running late, the competition itself was delayed, so we weren't significantly affected. Like last time, we had trouble finding a power outlet that we could set up our battery box near, but it turned out there were a couple nearby. We were once again set up right next to Imperial, so we helped each other out while getting ready for the announcement of the match schedule.

Judging Session

The judges seemed to have been quite impressed at our presentation, and asked us quite a few questions about our engineering process, something we made sure to highlight. Unbeknownst to us, this would later win us the qualifier's Think award.

Scouting

We kept using our scouting strategies this tournament, and kept multiple spreadsheets.

Dylan and Alisa walked around interviewing teams and watching their matches to log strengths and weaknesses. The spreadsheets they created helped us think about strategies for matches and to decide who to look for possible alliance partners during the finals. Due to multiple mistakes, we ended up 32nd place out of 32! Our failures consisted mostly of connection issues with the phone and mechanical power distribution issues with our cliffhanger servo. Getting our robot working at the end of our regular matches, we impressed many visiting teams with our climbing efficiency. Using a video of our robot's capabilities, Dylan and Alisa convinced the first seed team to select us for their alliance.

Games

Even before the games, we were nearly disqualified twice due to our robot barely fitting in the sizing box and our beater bars being called an "entanglement hazard."
First Game: We got stuck on blocks our very first match. Then, when we got to the mountain, we didn't have enough time to try to make it to the top. Our servo got caught on something and was somewhat damaged.
Second Game: Our robot lost connection as soon as we started driving.
Third Game: Our servos continually twitched, so we tried to do a power cycle, but the judges had never asked if we were ready or not and dumped the debris, so we couldn't touch the robot by that time.
Fourth Game: We got there late and the judges did not allow us to touch our controller.
Fifth Game: We got teamed up with Imperial. We actually won that one by climbing the mountain while Imperial cleared the debris.
In the alliance matches, we were partnered with The Fighting Pickles and Synergy. Semi-final Game 1: We got to the mid zone and our alliance parter got to the cliff. Synergy also placed a bunch of blocks in the mountain mid goal.
Semi Final Game 2: We were switched out for the Pickles this game. Synergy got into the high zone and the Pickles hung off the mountain, giving us a blowout win. So overall, we got 3 wins in the tournament. In our final matches, we experienced much the same result, except for our robot getting into the high zone in our game. Pickles and Synergy wrapped up game 2, giving us first place alliance.

Awards Ceremony

We got the Think award for our engineering process slides, a third place Inspire award for our outreach, mostly for this slide

and a #1 Alliance award. Without the first place alliance, the team would've still qualified through our Think award and Inspire nomination. Even with our last place finish in the regular matches, we showed resiliancy and ended up as one of the top teams headed into the UTA regionals.

Post Competition Goals

01 Feb 2016
Post Competition Goals By Jayesh, Omar, Darshan, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Ethan, Evan, Dylan, Alisa, and Trace

Task: Discuss future goals and fixes needed to succeed at regionals and beyond

In the week following the competition, a Google document was made to discuss sections of building the team can improve on before the regional tournament. There was an outline made where every team member applied to certain sections that they felt needed to be improved upon. The different sections included robot chassis, the presentation, and game strategy. Members voted on item to be improved upon first, considering the benefits or risks of implementation in play, similar to the team's overall idea system. There was emphasis put on the autonomous of the robot and fixing our block intake and deposit system.

Reflections

Iron Reign's engineering process lets the team collectively decide on which tasks to prioritize. A collective document gives us the ability to save time in discussion during a practice and refine our ideas. Our plan currently is to have a better autonomous by dumping the climbers, pushing the button, and attempting to scale the mountain. For the robot, we are planning to focus improving our block intake and dumping system so we can get more points than just climbing the mountain. The team now has laid out list of tasks to focus on to prepare for the regional tournament at UTA.

Actual Postmortem

01 Feb 2016
Actual Postmortem By Jayesh, Caitlin, Omar, Max, Tycho, Darshan, Trace, Alisa, Ethan Evan, and Dylan

Nolan Tournament

Post-mortem

We have 1 weekend to get it right!

Iron Reign

INTRO

While we had a great tournament, we had major fails on the robot itself and still have a lot of room for presentation improvements. We have 2 weekends to fix everything and it does not seem like enough time.  Since a majority of us were too tired to meet on Sunday (completely understandable), we need to do some of our post-mortem analysis online.  So every team member must contribute to this document or at least read it.  Be sure to check-in by adding your name to the bottom section. This is additive - you may not delete anything written by other team members.

PROCEDURE

  1. Read the entire document
  2. Add notes or add rows when you see anything missing from the review
  3. Add your initials in the VOTE column if you want to be part of the solution to the particular problem
  4. Sign-in at the bottom to show that you at least read the document

ROBOT - Chassis

ISSUE

SUGGESTIONS / ALTERNATIVES

VOTE

Threw a track 1 time at tournament

●      Add side shields

●      Add debris deflectors on beater end - 3Design for accuracy

●      Experiment with alternate tread materials for longer-term

Dylan

Max

Plow failed constantly

●      Make it a flat bar permanently affixed - leave it up to driver to not incur block count penalty (may not work with mountain climbing requirements)

●      Redesign servo linkage so it doesn’t slide and can’t come apart

●      Fix mounting to hinges with holes through steel so they won’t come apart

●      Add taller aluminum plate to steel rod so blocks won’t hop over the plow

Ethan

Evan

Max

robot size

●      try to decrease length/width

Jayesh

ROBOT - CliffHanger

ISSUE

SUGGESTION

VOTE

Elevation control servo burns out

●      Replace servo again

●      Add another cheap servo to operate a switch that can disable the signal to the elevation servo at the end of the match so it doesn’t burn out while judges are counting up points. [Tycho’s idea]

●      Replace servo with a regular Neverest motor and use PID control.  Heavier and more complicated but unlikely to burn out.

●      Investigate overheating of servo controller - maybe add a second servo controller.

Omar

Tycho

Extension / retraction doesn’t work after autonomous

●      Figure out how to make motor mode switching work as advertized

Tycho

Need presets for Extension / Retraction

●      Tape ticks-per-meter already worked out.

●      Measure common extensions for Mountain and Cliff targets

●      Figure out which Mountain mode control buttons to use

●      Continue manual override for strange situations

Tycho, Omar, Darshan

Need rapid replacement of entire system

●      Build second entire CliffHanger assembly including mounted motors.

Trace

ROBOT - BEATER BAR

ISSUE

SUGGESTION

VOTE

Beater Bar didn’t fold up small enough

●      May need to go back to sliding mechanism.  Install slide trigger and bungies

●      Redesign smaller double bar assembly so it isn’t the full width of the robot (for super-regionals)

●      Need a proper way to tuck it under the lowered trough before match start

 

Trough control servo got all twitchy

●      Investigate health of servo.  Replace with digital servo?

Omar

No “All Clear Signal” solution. This is the V on top of the mountain.

●      Trough, if it rotates more, could serve as a hanging lock and a way to pull down the V (all clear signal)

Omar

Blocks fall back into robot instead of out the side

●      HDPE backing for trough needs to be re-done so that it will make the blocks fall out the end when inverted.

Evan

Blocks get stuck on conveyor belt

●      Widen backing sheet (same fix as above)

●      Make rollers to guide elastic drive belt around polycarb edges so the belt doesn’t get stuck.

●      Cover outside of belt with rubber cement to increase friction with blocks

Ethan

Ramp doesn’t work

●      Design a working ramp and print it - should interleave with beater tines and create a raking effect to pull blocks up.

●      May need overhead rake to guide blocks into trough - prevent overshoot

 

Max

ROBOT - DRIVER SUPPORT (reduce demands on driver)

ISSUE

SUGGESTION

VOTE

Automatic Mountain Alignment

●      Add Sharp IR sensors for wall following

●      Use IMU to maintain heading on mountains

●      Enable mountain mode automatically based on IMU pitch

●      Use huMoments to find lines in OpenCV and determine ramp center from that (long term)

 

Automatic Mountain Scaling

●      Sync cliff-hanger retraction/extension with track motions

●      Maintain manual override for abnormal situations

Omar

Direction toggle

backwards and forwards

Jayesh, Max

Drive team

●      Make designated robot team, have subs, but one main squad. We tried to have different people but ended up with same team as last competition. If this works keep the team and have them practice together, otherwise make a permanent team with 1-2 subs when a person needs a break.

Jayesh,  Dylan, Omar

ROBOT - AUTONOMOUS

ISSUE

SUGGESTION

VOTE

We’ve never fully tested it

●      Make a schedule for practices with goals for each meeting (include specific number of times to run.)

Lux

Button pushing fails

●      Redesign pusher plate so spikes are less dense and probably a hexagonal array

●      Add servo-based brake on tape so it can’t be pushed back into the reel

●      Improve PID on color tracker

 

Doesn’t have alternate modes

●      Mode to climb lower mountain

●      Alternate starting location

 

Pre-match option selection needs to be easy and fast

●      Driver Practice--brainstorm in vivo.

 

ROBOT - Missing Features

ISSUE

SUGGESTION

VOTE

No solution for triggering mountain climbers

●      Bar that extends to either side of the robot at the right height

Omar, Darshan

make depositing climbers happen even if in teleop

●        involves trough servo working I guess

Omar

PRESENTATION

ISSUE

SUGGESTION

VOTE

Too much dependence on Jayesh and Caitlin

●      Move slides to other speakers

●      practice q&a where everyone has designated topics to answer over

Jayesh, Ethan

Not very fluid

●      practice

●      practice

●      practice

Everyone

Optimize last half of slide desk

●      Give practice demo to non-team=members and ask for feedback.

Jayesh

Integrate live demo

●      how about a chin-up bar?

●      Or show the video of the basketball hoop as you are speaking: memorable.

Ethan Dylan

Forgot to supply Control award sheet

●      Control award needs better graphic

●      Autonomous program

Dylan

Tournament Prep & Protocols

ISSUE

SUGGESTIONS

 

Packing out for tournaments disorganized, items forgotten,people stressed

●      Generate a reusable checklist & post to blog. Classify categories/storage boxes.

●      Designate boxes for specific items/categories  and attach labels of contents

●      Pack and prepare the night before

●      Give each person specific assignments/responsibilities

●      Have a master list of all boxes that need to be packed.

Lux Dylan

Caitlin

Last minute journal printing

●      Deadline for journal 48 hours before the competition.

Caitlin

Battery maintenance haphazard

●      Develop a solid protocol

●      Appoint a Charge Czar to be responsible for maintenance of batteries and tracking the battery charging box before and throughout tournament.

Caitlin

Develop a memorable brand or “team spirit” concept

●      Iron Reign as Roman Legion--develop a standard to carry into competition (probably for team in the stands)

●      Update photos/banners to current year.

●      aluminum foil hats (crowns)

Darshan

Alisa

 

Check In

Name

Sections I worked on

Coach

got it started

Assistant Coach & Pizza chef Lux

Organization/tournament

Jayesh, Max, Caitlin

mechanical+pres+robot team

Ethan, Evan, Dylan

Presentation, Beater Bar, Chassis

Omar, Alisa, Trace

cliffhanger, beater bar, driver support, missing features

Darshan

cliffhanger, missing features

Tycho

Cliff servo

 

 

Presentation Runthrough

13 Feb 2016
Presentation Runthrough By Caitlin, Max, Tycho, Darshan, Jayesh, Omar, Alisa, Ethan, and Evan

Task: Go through presentation with Mr. Gilkes

Our mentor Mr. Gilkes was kind enough to listen to us do a rough presentation run-through at practice. We hadn't looked at the presentation since the competition 2 weeks ago, and it was pretty obvious we were under-practiced. We swiped through the slides before starting to get our bearings.

Reflections

We started by making sure everyone knew their cues, and had a short flip through before a mock presentation. Throughout the presentation Mr. Gilkes gave us advice on specific aspects of our presentation, such as adding detail on the PID slide, making sure we use the words "integral" and "derivative" to get the judge's attention, maintaining eye-contact throughout, and making sure to point to the robot when discussing parts.

While the specifics were extremely helpful, this exercise showed us that we were extremely out of practice. Many of us left out the most important parts of our slides, like Tycho and the important uses of modelling the robot, Jayesh and how the professional engineers at our Gyro talk gave us tips on IMU's in our price range, etc. It was our presentation that won us the Think award last competition, and it's important we keep our delivery as accurate and on-point as possible.

RIP FTC 2016

27 Feb 2016
RIP FTC 2016 By Jayesh, Omar, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Darshan, Alisa, Dylan, Evan, Ethan, and Trace

Task: Review the events that occurred at the FTC Regional Championship

Link to postmortem document

Iron Reign had a fairly successful run at our regional tourament, much more so compared to last year. Despite reaching the semi-finals, we were unable to advance past the competition to super-regionals. We had many strengths of ours shown through the day, but also committed errors that inevitably caused our loss at the end. At the judges meeting, we did a decent job of eplaining our value as a team to the judges but committed a huge error in not showing demonstrations on our robot and videos over its functions. This made our presentation have less of an impact in that the points we were making had no empirical vale because there were no real world examples to what we were saying that the judges could see. We were pretty successful in the robot game, holding the first position in the rankings for the majority of the tournament. Going into our third match, a weird error caused our robot to not transfer power from the battery to the robot system and disqualified us from the game. In our last match the error persisted and didn't allow us to climb the mountain, which was our main source of points and we ended up outside of the top four teams. In the selection of alliance partners, we were wanted by the first and second place alliances for second pick but were picked up by the fourth place alliance first pick. Through our match with the first place alliance, we lost by a small margin and our other partner with our alliance captain were blown out in the second match, taking us out of the tournament.

Reflections

We had much more success in our regional tournament this year compared to last year, but our luck wasn't with us this year as a few small errors prevented us from moving on to super-regionals. We now look forward to the UIL tournament and will continue holding practices to prepare for that competition in the summer. Some errors we must look at are in ensuring the prevention of random errors in the robot for the game and tightening up our presentation to both convey our team value and provide real-world example to the judges to help connect the two aspects of the team. This will give us a much better chance to succeed in both the robot game, both scoring blocks and climbing the ramp, and help show the judges how are team works and has overall strength compared to other teams. Learning from our mistakes at regionals, we will grow and look to have great success at UIL.

Fort Worth Maker Fest

02 Apr 2016
Fort Worth Maker Fest By Jayesh, Omar, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Darshan, Evan, Ethan, and Austin

Task: Show both adults and children benefits of robotics and past work of the team

Iron Reign was invited to present at the annual Fort Worth Maker Fest at the city's Museum of Science. We spent the day showing off our competition bots and other robots that we have created over the years. People were especially interested in our innovation with climbing the mountain and using simple every day objects like tape measures to carry our huge and heavy robot up several feet. We were approached by multiple adults with robotics experience, even one of our previous judges, and were told of how they were impressed with our level of expertise. We also fascinated multiple children with the robotics, with their enthusiasm in trying out the bot in a few mini games and seeing our other robots, such as the balancing robot, hopefully opened their eyes up to possibly pursuing STEM careers in their futures.

Reflections

Our opportunity at the Maker Fest to present to multiple generations of passers-by helped us appreciate the level of robotics knowledge and technique that we have acquired over the years, both as individuals and as a group. To be praised by both professionals in the field and see the level of interest we imparted to multiple children, we recognized that what we have done and will continue doing has meaning, not just for us, but for our community. We had some fun adventures at the museum, including an intense discussion of the DC and Marvel Universes with a few of our booth neighbours and balancing Kibosh on a hover board while attempting to steer(future content incoming).

Robot On a Hoverboard - Try 1

02 Apr 2016
Robot On a Hoverboard - Try 1 By Caitlin, Max, Tycho, Darshan, Omar, Evan, Ethan, and Jayesh

Task: Try to drive the hoverboard with the competition bot

In the middle of Saturday's event we decided it would be a GREAT idea to put the competiton robot on the hoverboard and try to drive it around. Theoretically if we got it centered correctly it could only drive forward and backwards. We could extend the cliff hanger to move our center of gravity forwards, and then retract to bring it back.

Reflections

We were able to make the board speed up by tilting the cliff-hanger out and extending it, but we couldn't control it enough to completely stop it or keep it steady. We believe that the robot frame isn't completely rigid and is torquing at the center, making the robot unbalanced left/right. Since it's only slightly off balance we can't really adjust it by hand. It seems doomed to drive in circles forever. We tried to turn the robot to a correct alignment by driving with the main treads a little, but the change in center of gravity was too dramatic. The robot quickly veered into Evan, who was sitting nearby.

Day 2 of iMake

03 Apr 2016
Day 2 of iMake By Caitlin, Max, Tycho, and Omar

Task: Continue presenting at iMake

Day 1 was a huge success, and we carried that over into the Sunday presentations too. There were a lot of common questions we noticed from Saturday, including levels of robotics competitions and the LEGO EV3 system, and we were able to answer these with more clarity after hearing them so often. A few papers were set up on our table outlining the various FIRST competition levels. These helped us easily reference the multiple acronyms FIRST uses for everything, which can be confusing to anyone who hasn't known and competed under them since they were 11 years old.

Reflections

Like Saturday, we interacted with what felt like a constant stream of people. Many were families with kids in elementary and middle school with varying experience in robotics. Some kids had competed in FLL or knew those who had, while others hadn't heard of the systems before. The balancing bot "Gyro Boy" was a good attention grabber when the main FTC bot wasn't doing anything, and it was helpful to compare the two, how Gyro Boy used graphical programming and was completely autonomous, while the main bot used a text language but was controlled by a driver. This almost immediately prompted the kids to ask if they could drive, and Omar showed them the ropes. Younger kids were only shown the drive controls, while the older ones could be taught some of the more interesting tape measure commands. Since the hand was still taped onto the cliff hook many took the opportunity to wave to their siblings and gave high fives to anyone near. However, the robot seemed to be disconnecting more often than it had Saturday, and was hidden to the side so it wouldn't be asked about.

When we brought out Argos, the color following robot, it seemed like every other volunteer took a minute or two to pick up the target and watch the camera follow the movements. Tycho, Max, and Omar traded off on the controls and occasionally let Argos drive too, in order to show how he could back up when too close, and catch up when lagging. It had taken us the beginning of the day to fix the phone mount, but the extra effort was definitely worth it. However unwieldy Argos may be (he is definitely suited to outdoor/large open area events) he is definitely a crowd pleaser.

Sumobot Tips and Tricks

12 Apr 2016
Sumobot Tips and Tricks By Tycho

Let's assume you are building a LEGO Mindstorms or Vex IQ based Sumobot, but you want to skip some of the basic mistakes beginners will make. Here are some tips and tricks.

  • Know the rules. It's silly to get disqualified because you didn't pay attention to the rules. Know the size and weight limits. Know the allowed construction materials and techniques. Know the startup behaviors. For example, your robot must not move for 5 seconds after you activate it. This simple rule has tripped up many competitors. And make sure you get to the competition on time to register and get your robot inspected for weight, size and any other requirements.
  • Stay on the field. For this you will almost certainly need at least one light sensor to detect the ring's white edge. We highly recommend two such light sensors placed at the front corners of your robot. This will increase your chances of detecting the edge when coming at it from an angle. You can also adjust your retreat behavior so the robot will be less likely to exit the ring. A retreat behavior usually consists of backing up and turning back toward the center of the ring or scanning for your opponent. You can back up curving away from the sensor that detected the edge first. A third edge detector could be placed at the back of your robot - but this is almost never needed. It would be only useful if you have a behavior that could trigger backing up when the rear of your robot is close to the edge. Theoretically you could detect the edge when being pushed backward by your opponent and try to twist out of the way, but we've never witnessed anyone pulling off this advanced behavior.
  • Build to the maximum weight for the competition. If your bot is heavier than your competitor's, you will have an advantage in traction and with inertia. You will be harder to push around and can more likely push them around. We've seen teams use extra unpowered motors to help maximize weight. Use a scale to be sure you don't exceed the allowed weight.
  • Build compact. Your robot should be as small and dense as possible. Air gaps within your robot and on the exterior should be kept to a minimum. The larger your robot is, the more likely that your opponent will contact a part of your robot far from its center of mass. When it pushes against this part, it will very easily turn your robot in a different direction. Most likely this will be to your disadvantage. You will also be very unlikely to push your opponent in the correct direction when in this condition. Also, the rules say that the first robot to have any part touch the surface that the ring is sitting on is out. If you have a large robot, it is much more likely that part of it will touch-out.
  • Build Low. The lower your center of gravity, the less likely your opponent will be able to topple you or force your wheels to lose traction.
  • Build a Skirt or Shield. A Sumo Shield is a smooth ramp that decends from the front of your robot down to the surface of the ring. The purpose is to create a wedge that will go under your opponent when you come into contact. The wedge will lift your opponent, transferring their weight to your robot. As a result your wheels can increase traction while theirs will decrease. A skirt is a shield that surrounds your entire robot, making it look like a cone or pyramid, so it works wherever the contact point is. But a skirt can be much harder to engineer. They have to be very sturdy, not impede your own movement, and not get in the way of any sensors you might use. Skirts and Shields also increase the size of your robot, so you have more risk of touching-out. Particularly if you have a hinged shield. Hinged shields are great for staying as low as possible to get under your opponent, but they need to be prevented from dropping down when over the edge of the ring. A floating skirt is a wall built around your robot that is only loosely connected or not connected at all to your robot. Instead your robot pushes the skirt around the ring and the skirt's weight keeps it flat against the floor. This makes it unlikely that your robot's motions will create a gap that your opponent can get under. And if your opponent does get under the skirt, they haven't necessarily started lifting your robot to steal traction. You could also have a sensor that detects if your skirt is lifting and back away when that happens.

We've seen well-engineered robots with only edge sensors win big competitions. A solid, heavy and low robot with a great skirt will conquer when none of its opponents has the same features. Once you are in this category you can consider advanced tips.

  • Locate your prey. Actively seeking your opponent creates an advantage. It's also fun. Usually a forward-facing ultrasonic sensor is a good choice. You can scan for your opponent by making your robot turn in place while checking the sensor to see if it detects something close. Calculate the maximum distance your opponent can be from your ultrasonic sensor. Simply place your robot backed up to the edge of the ring and measure the distance from the front of your ultrasonic sensor to the opposite edge of the ring. Subtract the minimum size of an opposing robot. For LEGO sumos that would be about 6 in. or 15 cm. If you see anything closer than this you can assume that you've detected your opponent. (Or you've detected humans if you've failed to keep everyone at a proper clearing distance from the ring, including the operators) Continue your turn for a fraction of a second and turn on your charging behavior. Make sure you are aware of the minimum distance your sensor can deal with. You will probably want to recess your sensor from the front of your robot so that it will continue to register your opponent even when you are right up against each other.
  • Organize your software. Beginners will often design software that will do one thing at a time and be unable to react until those things are complete. For example, on detecting an opponent, charge for X rotations of the wheel. While the robot is trying to complete those rotations it's not looking at sensors, so it doesn't detect the ring and drives off if it was too close to the edge. We will post a complete lesson on designing software that always lets the highest priority behaviors (back-away-from-the-edge) interrupt the lower priority behaviors (scan-for-prey).

LEGO (Plastic Fastener) SUMO Workshop and Competition, Coming April 24th and May 14th

12 Apr 2016
LEGO (Plastic Fastener) SUMO Workshop and Competition, Coming April 24th and May 14th By Tycho

LEGO Sumo returns with a free Sumo Workshop on Sunday April 24th followed by the Dallas Personal Robotics Group's Roborama Sumobot competition at the Dallas Makerspace on May 14th.

Here's what the competition looks like:

A basic sumobot is a simple build. Here is an example to get you started: http://nxtprograms.com/mini_sumo/steps.html

If you have multiple NXTs or EV3s, then your team could make multiple sumobots. Typically 1, 2 or 3 students will work together on a sumobot entry. Start by making your robot charge forward while staying in the ring. If you get that working take the next step and add an ultrasonic to hunt your opponent. Plastic Fastener (LEGO or VexIQ) Sumobots need to fit within a 1 foot square footprint and weigh under 1200 grams. Full rules can be found here: https://dprgblog.wordpress.com/rules/

Teams are also encouraged to consider the novice line-following competition in the same rules document. Students compete in Roborama for free. Prizes include full robot kits. There is room for only 40 sumo robots, so please register soon: https://dprgblog.wordpress.com/pre-registration/

Come to the Sumobot Workshop Sunday April 24th from noon to 4pm at the Dallas Makerspace. DPRG members and members of FTC Team Iron Reign will be hosting an open sumo workshop at the Dallas Makerspace in Carrollton (map). Bring your sumobot, parts and laptop and you will find help with build and programming. Sumo rings will be provided. Line following help will also be available. An adult needs to accompany and remain with each team of students - this is not a drop-off activity, but parents can tour the Makerspace. If you can't make the workshop, at least check out our Sumobot Tips and Tricks. Add to calendar

And don't forget the competition itself on Saturday May 14th from 10am to 4pm: https://dprgblog.wordpress.com/

Mobile Learning Lab Part 1 - Demolition

14 Jun 2016
Mobile Learning Lab Part 1 - Demolition By Evan, Max, Tycho, and Austin

Task: Redo the inside of the recreational vehicle

Mr.Virani recently aquired an RV so it could be used as a mobile learning center for the Dallas City of Learning this summer. To convert it from someplace you might live on a long road trip to somewhere you could teach science and technology to children means stripping out carpeting, removing walls, and laying down easily cleanable floors and standing height work benches. We also have to put in a lot of computer equipment and 3D printers that Big Thought is providing. It's going to be a long proccess.

Max and Tycho have completed a lot of demolition. They've removed the bed revealing a strange trap door that we need to look under. The table and chairs are gone as are some of the cabinets. The sofa was metal framed and too big to move out of the door or windows, so they had to cut it apart with bolt cutters and grinders. They ripped out most of the bathroom relying on the big sawzall. The mess of remaining plumbing and exposed electrical wiring looks very scary. And the pile of demoed materials has already grown quite a large:

Dallas City of Learning

25 Jun 2016
Dallas City of Learning By Ethan, Evan, Jayesh, Omar, Caitlin, Max, and Tycho

Task: Teaching children how to use robots

On 18 June, we went to the J. Erik Jonsson Library to inspire children to hopefully go into STEM-related careers. We were invited for their annual City of Learning event. We talked to about 200 people about robotics and most loved it - especially children. We showed them Minion, Argos, the ball-flipper, and Geb (the new name for our FTC bot).

We presented alongside a kids' robotics sponsor and Polyprinter.

Reflections

We got a good amount of people and got a good amount of kids interested in our robots. It was fun to talk with the other vendors at the fair, interested parents, and hobbyists.

Mobile Learning Lab Part 2 - Roof

26 Jun 2016
Mobile Learning Lab Part 2 - Roof By Tycho, Max, Matthew, and Austin

Task: Clean the roof of the RV

We'd noticed that the roof was very grimey looking from the small strip you could see at the top of the side walls, but we hadn't been up there to look at it. Finally climbing the ladder we confirmed it. The roof is a very dark brown. We believe it is simply dirt that has caked into the sticky/gummy surface. It's probably not supposed to be so sticky - it kind of seems like a layer of decaying caulk laid over the rubber roof. We confirmed that this layer should be white. It covers the black EPDM rubber roof that serves as a weather barrier. Because the roof is so dark, it absorbs tons of sunlight, making it much hotter inside. We needed to clean it.

So we spent today powerwashing the roof. In the morning Matthew (from SEM's FRC team) came over with his father's power washer and we got about 1/2 of the roof partially clean. When Matthew had to leave at noon, Mr. Virani purchased another more powerful washer and we continued washing until dark. Austin, from the other FTC team at our school joined us in the early afternoon. So now all three robotics teams at SEM have contributed time to the mobile learning lab.

Here you can see the dramatic difference that powerwashing has made. We hope this will cool the vehicle enough that we can operate with only the roof airconditioners so we can turn off the main engine while on station.

Mobile Learning Lab Part 3 - Flooring

02 Jul 2016
Mobile Learning Lab Part 3 - Flooring By Evan, Max, Tycho, Dylan, Ethan, Caitlin, Darshan, and Austin

Carpet ripping is not fun. The carpet is tacked down with so many staples that is is not easy to remove. It tends to rip around the stables leaving nubs of fibers and then we have to attack the stables with pliers and staple pullers. Getting it out from under the edges of walls and the slide out is really hard. And we've gouged the subfloor where removing the old kitchen and bathroom vinyl required heavy work with scrapers. We tried putting down some vinyl planks, and those are much tougher to work with than you might guess. We only got a small portion of the floor demoed today. It's kind of daunting how much work this is. In the end it will be all worth it because we will have provided a place for children to learn skills that will help them in their future working lives.

Mobile Learning Lab Part 4 - Update

09 Jul 2016
Mobile Learning Lab Part 4 - Update By Ethan, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Jayesh, Darshan, Austin, Matthew, Evan, Dylan, Omar, and Trace

Task: Covert a 1998 RV into the Dallas City of Learning Lab

The RV exterior


We have finished the majority of the renovation of the Dallas City of Learning Lab. We've finished rebuilding the roof, going throught the plumbing (including the suspiciously secretive water tank), and also replacing the entirety of the flooring.

to

The RV interior

to

A full tour of the RV pre-renovation can be found here.

Changes

  • Removed restroom
  • Replaced carpet with laminate
  • Added widescreen TVs
  • Added black workbenches
  • Removed table
  • Removed cabinet to make room for more technology
  • Removed some 90s decor
  • Removed bedside tables and cabinets
  • Added 3D printer
  • Removed bed
  • Removed couch
  • Removed 90s decals
  • Added shelving
  • Cleaned a decade of muck off of it

Reflections

We've put in >250 hours working on this RV. It's going to become a mobile robotics lab so that we can inspire kids to enter STEM-related careers and hobbies. Uaing this van, the team can reach out to children who otherwise would not have the oppurtunity to learn how to build and program robots, as well as gaining skills related to that, such as using a 3D printer.

MXP - Mobile Learning Lab Recap

16 Jul 2016
MXP - Mobile Learning Lab Recap By Jayesh and Caitlin

DCOL Mobile Tech XPerience (MXP) Begins Service

Written by Jayesh Sharma
Edited by Caitlin Rogers

Iron Reign has been actively supporting Dallas City of Learning (DCoL) for a few years now. Big Thought (managing partner for DCoL) received a grant from Best Buy to support STEM learning over the summer by taking STEM opportunities into communities so that kids with reduced access to transportation wouldn't be left out. The original idea was to pack a cargo van with technology that could be dropped off at community centers, libraries, schools, churches and other public facilities where kids could experiment with tools and technologies that would'nt normally be available.

But Big Thought, true to the name, decided to scale up the vehicle into a true mobile learning laboratory. Because the budget remained tight, they needed to create a mobile classroom on a shoestring. So the new idea was to repurpose a used RV large enough so that 12 students could productively work on board while many more could participate inside the visited location. While Big Thought handled putting a sweet new skin on the vehicle, we volunteered our time to renovate the interior.

When we received the vehicle, it was cramped on the inside, with everything needed for a portable family living space. We removed a bed, couch, and restroom (complete with bathtub) and opened the space up for more gadgets. We tore out extra cabinets, shelving, tables, chairs, light fixures and mirrors. We ripped out the old carpet and replaced it with wood-grain vinyl, installed wide screen instructor's monitors over the driver's seat, added work benches along the perimeter and created a bay to hold four 3D printers. Max is still working on a 3D print server so that the printers can be access through the on-board wifi. We spent a whole day power-washing the roof to reveal the original white surface that could reflect away more of the sunlight so the air conditioners would have a chance against the Texas summer heat. On the inside we painted the walls and cabinets black and added diamond plate trim and LED lighting to give it a tech/industrial feel.

Including the time it took to clean about a decade’s worth of grime and dust, the team has put one and a half months and over 350 person hours of work into this vehicle, resulting in the mobile technology lab that went into service last Thursday. Throughout the course of renovating this vehicle, we affirmed the value that STEM education has for our society. Our building experience with robotics was a great advantage when working on the RV’s design and construction. The team’s engineering and design skills were put to the test and our efforts have been very kindly received. The team will continue to help DCoL spread STEM opportunities and values to those who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to them. Next Saturday we'll be going back to the Frontiers of Flight Museum to staff the vehicle for the DCOL Turn-Up there. We hear the vehicle will be pulled inside the hanger. Museum admission is free that day, we hope to see you there!

Turn Up! at Frontiers of Flight with DCOL

23 Jul 2016
Turn Up! at Frontiers of Flight with DCOL By Janavi, Darshan, Jayesh, Caitlin, Max, Tycho, Omar, and Austin

Inspiring 1,000 People to Turn Up with STEM

Written by Janavi Chadha

The Dallas City of Learning Organization held a Turn Up event at the Frontiers of Flight Museum, where we staffed the Mobile XPerience (MXP) complete with laptops, 3D printers, and LEGO SumoBots. Outside the vehicle, Caitlin and I taught kids how to create 3D models of houses using SketchUp. Then we let the kids bring their designs to life by designing and 3D-Printing keychains.

On board Max managed the bank of four 3D printers while Tycho and Austin taught kids to build virtual structures on our Minecraft server with the education version of the software.

Out to the side of the MXP, we set up a ring for the sumo lego robots to battle in, teaching the kids how robots can be programmed to react to the world around them. Jayesh, Omar and Darshan manned that station and also demonstrated our FTC competition robot.

Omar ran minion (our robot walking companion) around the museum Pied-Piper fashion, leading kids back to our activity stations in and around the vehicle. On the way he taught kids to operate the robot with its touch and rotation sensor based leash. At one point he took minion over to challenge the airport's 700lb bomb disposal robot. That robot was not impressed.

A few more pics of the MXP in the museum while we are striking the exhibit:

Person-hours note: The night before Max and Tycho spent 5 hours getting the vehicle ready.

Mobile Learning Lab in Action

28 Jul 2016
Mobile Learning Lab in Action By Caitlin, Max, and Tycho

Task: Deploy the Mobile Learning Lab to camps and teach kids

The RV has been fully remodeled and set up with netbooks and 3D printers, so we have been making the rounds and teaching at camps and events. We try to limit the number of kids on board to under 15 or 12 for safety reasons. It'd be nearly impossible to fit more kids and be able to effectively teach.

Reflections

When we first drove up to one deployment of the RV there were a lot of kids staring, because honestly who wouldn't; the RV is huge and bright. We couldn't set up fast enough before people wanted to come inside. We split the group into modelling and robotics and got started. In the back, robotics kits were scattered on the floor, and groups of two or three were following a video to build a 5 minute bot (it generally took them longer though). When the bots were built we had a crash course in the EV3 programming environment and helped them think analytically about how they wanted the robots to behave when on different sections of the sumo. We didn't give them a program to use, they told us what to put. The result? An exciting free for all complete with screaming cheers and flipping of bots (video above).

Max and I led the modelling with the basic "build a house" tutorial below. After they got the hang of that we set the software sizing up so they could make a keychain and print it. Some people got really into their house and ended up emailing the file to themselves to continue later.

Robotics UIL 2016

01 Aug 2016
Robotics UIL 2016 By Ethan, Evan, Caitlin, Darshan, Jayesh, Janavi, Trace, Max, Tycho, and Omar

Task: Compete in UIL Robotics in Austin

A bit of background:
UIL is a Texas-specific organization that hosts competitions in both academic and athletic pursuits. This year, they ran a pilot program for Robotics, using the FTC rules and field from Res-Q. About 72 teams competed in the FTC-based competition, which then was split into two catagories. Unlike regular FIRST tournaments, the awards not earned by competition are given through nomination by other teams.

  • Mentor Recognition Award
  • Leadership Award
  • Creativity in Design Award
  • Gracious Professionalism Award
  • Play of the Day Award
  • Safety Award
  • Team Spirit Award
On Wednesday, July 27, the team came down in a charter bus, with the MXP. That night, we did some last-minute working on the robot. [insert image here] The next day, we woke up early, and headed down to the Austin Convention Center. We pitched a tent and blow-up couch, and generally set up. We used the competition as an opportunity to promote our twitter. The first match, we did horrible. Our robot dug itself into the ground as if it were near the trench-lines of WW1. After giving us its best WW1 re-enactment, it started jettisoning parts, similar to how a Space Shuttle jettisons its external tank. Matches 2-5 were mostly uneventful. We only won two of them, but there were no similar dramatic happenings like match one. After match one, we atttempted to present our team to other teams, as we brought in a TV. A quick list of notable things that happened in this time period were:
  • Bringing one of the 3D printers inside and printing parts
  • Making a last-minute climber-holder
  • A bird flying into the convention center
  • Our presentation computer updating to Windows 10
  • Our robot falling off the mountain

On Friday, we were not picked to be in the final matches, and unfortunately, we were not picked for any awards. We did, however, meet up with our school's FRC team and say hi, as their competition was starting. After the awards ceremony, we decided to leave. On the way back to the hotel, we noticed the Texas Workforce Commission building, which is one of our sponsors. So, we parked our RV up by the side of the building, and walked in. We talked to the receptionist, and within a few minutes, one of the TWC execs came down to talk to us and take pictures. We gave them a tour of our RV as well, and they seemed impressed, even if it was in post-tournament disarray.

Reflections

While this tournament was not our best tournament by a margin the size of the Mongol Empire circa 1279 C.E., we were able to interact with teams in Texas that we normally would not have, get exposure for the MXP all the way down I35, and talk to our one of our sponsors in person. As well, it gave us experience for the future and was a great teambuilding activity. If we get invited to UIL next year, we know what to do to win.

Meeting with The Texas Workforce Commission

01 Aug 2016
Meeting with The Texas Workforce Commission By Jayesh, Omar, Max, Tycho, Darshan, Evan, Ethan, Janavi, Caitlin, Trace, and Dylan

Task: Connect with our sponsors in the Texas Workforce Commission

Following the conclusion of the state UIL competition, Iron Reign noticed the Texas Workforce Commission building. Given that the organization was one of the team's generous sponsors, we wanted to show our gratitude and headed into the building. Upon greeting the clerk, we made it apparent that we didn't wish to disturb anybody, but wanted to see if anyone was available from the Commission who we could thank for helping us with FTC. There was an enthusiatic response, as immediately several officials, including Commissioner Ruth Hughs came down to meet with us (I guess we got really lucky with our timing). Upon inquiry, we instantly gave them a brief overview of why we were in Austin (#UIL) and what our team was built on. We spoke on mechanical aspects, such as the robot itself, and also spoke about our several outreach events. We answered questions about FIRST and the general consensus was impressed with the dedication and work we had put into the competition and team. As a tangent to the amount of work we had put into FIRST, Hughs spoke to us about expanding the role of organizing and growing the general workforce. She told us how it was the work of people like us that made her job of organizing us worth it. She also advised we meet with Chairman Andres Alcantar, a big supporter of STEM, as he wasn't in town. After talking about all these topics, we invited the officals to come inside the Mobile Tech Xperience and see what it was like for the kids we taught using the vehicle.

Reflections

Getting the opportunity to meet with one of the larger organizations in Texas was very educational for us. While we helped the Commission better understand the investment they've made in FIRST, we also learned yet another aspect of our future in the American workforce. The connection we built with the Commission emphasized the role of STEM and robotics in our future. Driving the robot around, while showing off the multiple components on it, we gave the officials plenty to think about in terms of future opportunities. We hope to take the lessons learned at the TWC and use it to build on our future endeavors. Thank you to the TWC for having us!

Planning Meeting

03 Sep 2016
Planning Meeting By Janavi, Max, Tycho, Jayesh, Omar, Darshan, and Caitlin

Task:

This week we met to discuss the origination of the meetings for the upcoming year. We decided that for the first fifteen minutes of the meeting we would outline our plans for the meeting. Then during our lunch break we would get together once again to discuss the progress that we have made and what we will move onto by the end of the meeting . By structuring our meetings we will be able accomplish more in the same amount of time and at the end of the season we will be able to better analyse our accomplishments.

Reflections

Organization has always been a challenge for Iron Reign and we hope that by doing this we will be able to eliminate any periods of time during the meeting where people don't know what work they should do.

FTC Kickoff 2016

10 Sep 2016
FTC Kickoff 2016 By Ethan, Evan, Max, Tycho, and Omar

Task: Go to the FTC 2016 Kickoff to preview the new Velocity Vortex challenge

This Saturday, we ventured down to UTD to watch the unveiling of the new FTC challenge, and collaborate with other teams. The main change we noticed is that this year, it seems like there is a greater emphasis on league play instead of just doing a qualifier. To go to regionals, there seem to be three options:

  1. Do league play and go to one qualifier
  2. Do league play only
  3. Go to two qualifiers (But you may have to give up your spot to other teams)
Other minor changes for this year are:
  • Adding the Nexus 5 to the list of approved phones
  • New(hopefully less buggy) version of the FTC controller app
  • Ambiguous rule about not damaging the field
  • Red/Yellow card penalty system
The new app is great for our team, our Adafruit IMU is now officially supported, so we don't have to use the Swerve Robotics library anymore. As well, you can now configure phones through the driver's station, making testing faster. FIRST added support for many new sensors and we are intrested in trying them out. The new challenge is radically different from last year's challenge - strategies this year will mainly focus around defense. Our preliminary ideas are:
  • Standing at the ramp and circulating particles around it
  • Beacon defense - it seems to be the easiest way to get a lot of points
  • Capping the "vortex" with the yoga ball
  • Spinning the vortices around so fast that no team can score
We are considering using Pele as our robot, as it can already shoot balls and has an intake system, we'd just need to add a beacon-poker and lift to cap the vortex.

Reflections

This year's challenge requires us to "think outside the box" in order to progress. As well, we really need to work fast, as if we do league play, the competitions happen sooner that the traditional qualifiers.

First Official Practice of the Season

17 Sep 2016
First Official Practice of the Season By Omar, Caitlin, Jayesh, Darshan, Ethan, Evan, Janavi, Max, and Tycho

Task: Pull ourselves together for the new season

At this practice, our goal was to get everybody familliar with this year's game, Velocity Vortex, and to brainstorm some ideas for this year's robot. Some organization also needed to be done in terms of parts (everything is everywhere and nowhere at the same time) and also in terms of this year's meeting structure. Last year was somewhat unfocused and chaotic and we need to get a better grasp of things.

Reflections

We managed to get a decent amount done today. Jayesh described our new meeting structure: we begin with a group discussion of what we'd be doing that day, then would separate and work, then around mid-meeting we'd eat some food and while doing so talk about what we've done, then separate again and continue working. Hopefully we're able to stick to this schedule.

Jayesh and I also made a small table of possible wheel base options, such as using either Mecanum wheels or returning to the omni-wheels of yore. Evan and Darshan disassembled the mountain from last year's field and put it outside near our tent. We discussed several things, such as some interesting rules about how our robot will not be able to grasp onto any part of the center structure, and therefore could not stop it from rotating by doing so. We also discussed League play, and it's advantages/disadvantages. A large weakness of ours is lack of testing, and these League meets would definitely let us get some more practice in before the big qualifiers.

Evan and Tycho both tried to explain designs for this year's robot that they'd thought up. Evan, by using some loopholes in the rules, designed the premise for a robot that would park itself right in front of our Corner Vortex, having with it at least two Particles, and would cycle them through the Vortex over and over again. Even though each Particle that goes through would only be worth a point, Evan argues that these will add up since his design will be quick at cycling. Tycho's idea focuses instead on the Center Vortex; he explained that his robot would have ball intakes on opposite sides of the robot so direction wouldn't matter (unlike last year's robot, Geb), and would have some sort of mechanism in the center of the robot that would shoot Particles up and through the Center Vortex. So far, most of us are aligning more on Tycho's side of the design wars, but Evan's persistence might win us over. Who knows.

One other thing Jayesh, Evan and I decided on (question mark?) is a general plan for this year's autonomous that we 100% need to work on to be successful: the robot will hit the beacon buttons, then move to the center of the field, hit the cap ball out of the center, then park in the center (not neccessarily fully). We thought this was realistically possible given the time that we have until competition.

Building the Robot Base

01 Oct 2016
Building the Robot Base By Jayesh, Omar, and Darshan

Task: Design and test implementation of a driving base

We have spent the last few practices formulating a new driving base for our robot this year. We went through various possibilities: tank-based drive using both tracks and the omni-regular system (both of which are systems that we have utilized in previous years). However, both systems showed inefficiencies with this year's competition. We decided to go to a system using mainly Mecanum Wheels, complemented by an extrusion-based attachment system.

Reflections:

The three options that we had for the driving base(Mecanum, omni, tracks) all had different strengths and weaknesses that we judged as important for this year's competition. The omni wheel system is good for maneuvering and strength, but the low-set nature of it would interfere with scoring in the competition. The tracks are good for strength and base durability, but the competition doesn't necessarily emphasize those characteristics. The size, manueverability, and low center of gravity, of Mecanum Wheels all complement this years competition. The high altitude of the wheels will allow us to go over the scoring balls, perhaps having some form of collection underneath. The extrusion-based structure gives more ease-of-access and stability compared to our previous Tetrix-centered versions.

Adding Blog Features

05 Oct 2016
Adding Blog Features By Ethan

Task: Add Cool and New Blog Features

I remember, vaguely, that someone on our team wanted to add a post counter for all the posts people appear in. And, today, I did it out of sheer boredom. And, here it is.

{% assign eh = 1 %}
{% assign dc = 1 %}
{% assign ed = 1 %}
{% assign or = 1 %}
{% assign js = 1 %}
{% assign cr = 1 %}
{% assign dp = 1 %}
{% assign mv = 1 %}
{% assign tv = 1 %}
{% assign jc = 1 %}
{% assign inc = 1 %}
{% for post in site.posts %}
  {% for name in post.rollcall %}
    {% if name == "Ethan" %}
      {% assign eh = eh | plus: 1 %}
    {% endif %}
    {% if name == "Dylan" %}
      {% assign dc = dc | plus: 1 %}
    {% endif %}
    {% if name == "Evan" %}
      {% assign ed = ed | plus: 1 %}
    {% endif %}
    {% if name == "Omar" %}
      {% assign or = or | plus: 1 %}
    {% endif %}
    {% if name == "Jayesh" %}
      {% assign js = js | plus: 1 %}
    {% endif %}
    {% if name == "Caitlin" %}
      {% assign cr = cr | plus: 1 %}     {% endif %}
    {% if name == "Darshan" %}
      {% assign dp = dp | plus: 1 %}
    {% endif %}
    {% if name == "Max" %}
      {% assign mv = mv | plus: 1 %}
    {% endif %}
    {% if name == "Tycho" %}
      {% assign tv = tv | plus: 1 %}
    {% endif %}
    {% if name == "Janavi" %}
      {% assign jc = jc | plus: 1 %}
    {% endif %}
  {% endfor %}
  {% assign inc = inc | plus: 1 %}
{% endfor %}
<ul>
  <li> Dylan Chorley - in {{dc}} posts</li>
  <li> Evan Daane - in {{ed}} posts</li>
  <li> Ethan Helfman - in {{eh}} posts</li>
  <li> Omar Ramirez - in {{or}} posts</li>
  <li> Caitlin Rogers - in {{cr}} posts</li>
  <li> Jayesh Sharma - in {{js}} posts</li>
  <li> Darshan Patel - in {{dp}} posts</li>
  <li> Maximillian Virani - in {{mv}} posts</li>
  <li> Tycho Virani - in {{tv}} posts</li>
  <li> Janavi Chadha - in {{jc}} posts</li>
</ul>

Now, this is not obviously the best code, there's probably a more efficient way than creating one variable per person. But, it works.
We've been making improvements on the site since the season began - changing the theme, Caitlin's commits that updated the blog for the new season, and purging old member bios from the team, just like how Stalin purged political dissidents from pictures and sent them to gulags.

Edit: We now have a Iron Reign stats page! We have spent a solid two hours debugging this so please appreciate it. We addded Austin, and cumulative personhours for team members and Iron Reign as a whole.

Reflections

We still need to work on the blog. At least for my computer, it takes a long time to load the actual site as it loads every single post made, so I'd like to add pagination. As well, I'd personally want to add a second theme for very easy readability, something like this.

Travis Open House

18 Oct 2016
Travis Open House By Ethan, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Darshan, Jayesh, and Evan

Task: To talk to prospective SEM students about robotics

Every year W.B. Travis, a 4-8 has an open house for magnet schools to attend and convince students that $school1 is better than $school2. And, since it is Iron Reign's former school, we attend and try to pull students SEM. We present to about 5 groups and field questions from parents.

Unsurprisingly, we ran into issues, just like we always do. First, our chain kept on falling off of our new robot as we had forgotten to re-enforce the motor and wheel mounts. So, while our robot was still impressive, it was a bit disappointing. Second, we had our color-following robot, but we had forgotten the controller phone. Despite all this, Jayesh gave a great presentation to the prospective freshmen.

Reflections

We really need to amp our presenting game up - our robots always break down in some unexpected way and makes our presentation a bit underwhelming. However, this does help, as we know what to fix for an actual competition. In the future, it would help to test our robots a bit more before presenting.

General Organization Progress

22 Oct 2016
General Organization Progress By Caitlin and Janavi

Task: Reduce clutter from summer

We made real progress in sorting the good and dead batteries after UIL, and we've streamlined the charging process. The phones are harder to charge because their cords can disconnect without warning, and they slide around more. If we don't want to waste time in competition, it's important we make the system easy to use and reliable. Janavi and I worked on Powerpole-ing the last few batteries so we could test and charge them, and I made something like a file cabinet for the phones to rest in.

Reflections

The battery box already has some internal organization, charged batteries in a separate box, to-be-charged in the main section. The phones seem like they'd be easy to keep at maximum, but we've noticed that their cords aren't as reliable, even if we have multiple. Stacking the phones works to keep them charging in a smaller space, but if one in the middle disconnects we can't tell which. Then we have to reconnect each one while listening for a disconnect tone to sound. I used some extra prototyping cardboard to make a row of slots for the phones so we could charge them without them affecting each other. Hopefully this will survive the travel stress and

Stabilizing Our Driving Base

29 Oct 2016
Stabilizing Our Driving Base By Jayesh, Omar, Max, and Darshan

Task: Stablize Meccanum wheel base so the driving is more stable and consistent

Our Meccanum wheel base idea started off on a shaky note. While we had a good amount of success in the tass we wanted to complete, like driving right or let without turning the entire robot, including the basic driving functions. However, as we went on with testing, we found that over time, the force the meccanum wheels were exerting on the chain was actually causing the motors driving the chains to come inwards. This was thereby loosening the chain and weakening their effect on the driving chassis. To fix this, we decided to mount angled beams between the motor and Meccanum wheels to stabilize and prevent the motion. We then further strengthened the system by 3D printing trapezoid-shaped mounts that have more surface area and strength to stabilize the system.

Reflections

As we go on improving the robot, we keep finding that our new designs have an incredible amount of errors and small bugs that need to be looked at before moving on to the next big design. Now that we have a stable and relatively reliable driving base, we can now focus our attentions to the scoring mechanism. Through our redesigns of the motor stabalizers we have found the use of testing on both the ground and in stationary conditions. We need to design a new mount to make stationary testing more efficient. This will especially be important for the testing we'll have to commit to for our scoring mechanism. (which will be discussed in a future post)

New Worlds Cities In Space

04 Nov 2016
New Worlds Cities In Space By Caitlin, Jayesh, Omar, and Darshan

Task: Obtain knowledge and share work done on Moon base project

A contigent from Iron Reign participated in a space competition at the NewWorlds Conference. The idea was to form a interstellar base to self-maintain and extend humankind's reach into the universe. After winning the previous year's competition with a Mars base, the team did a sort of prequel, committing to a Moon base. Involving writing a 21 page research paper, developing a minecraft-modded map, and work in Google Sketchup, the team presented to a group of Space researchers, genetic scientists, and privately-funded space companies over our work. We recieved 1st place for our work and garnered a lot of interest in STEM and space.

Reflections

The convention allowed us to present both to the aforementioned specialists and children who took a field trip to come to the convention. These children were especially attracted by the minecraft design. We led them through walking in the base and testing out our designs. We were able to garner a lot of interest of their concept of space and STEM was. When the judges came to our area, we mentioned how the topics we learned in SEM and in robotics helped us to finish a lot of the fact-checking for the base. In the end there was a lot of interest and praise for our work, even going as far as to convince a researcher to ask in running a molecular biology summer camp at our school. We're excited to build off our success at the competition and use it to help us in FTC as well.

Meeting Log

06 Nov 2016
Meeting Log November 06, 2016 By Max, Tycho, Jayesh, Darshan, Ethan, Evan, and Janavi

Meeting Log November 06, 2016

We've been blogging/journalling at the sub-team level, which allows us to share our work at a deeper level on specific subjects. This ends up creating a need to have many posts in a single practice. That's great for our journal, but we also end up failing to document some of our sub-team work because we can't find enough time to write up every break-out project. We are also regularly missing out on documenting a lot of our organizational work, like the planning session at the beginning of practice and the list of tasks we assign ourselves. So from now on we will be adding a practice log for each meeting - starting it as an open template on our main shared computer and just asking team members to log their start-stop times there. Publish right at the end of practice. This is meant to be a light-weight log - it doesn't need great writing. Members, add your time to person-hours in this post only for planning time plus any time you worked that will not be captured in a detail post. This will be the first such post.

Today's Meet Objectives

Organization / Documentation / Competition Prep

  • Review Journal - not started
  • Review Robot Status - completed

Software

  • Fix pose class - import from last year is incomplete and broke code - completed
  • Calibrate forward and crabbing motions of the robot - not started
  • Turn current teleop mecanum mixing into a method that can be used across teleop and autonomous - completed
  • Begin Autonomous motion sequences - not started

Build / Modelling

  • Add outside collectors to collector system - minor progress
  • Begin modelling the full robot assembly - not started

Service / Outreach

  • Blog about SEM open house - TBD, delegated for homework

Today's Work Log

Team MembersTaskStart TimeDuration
AllPlanning Meeting2:10pm.25
TychoFix pose class2:30pm1
MaxCleanup and mount catapult bowl4:001
Tycho, JanaviMecanum mixing method3:45.5
Tycho, JanaviMethod to prevent repeated inputs3:30.25
Ethan,EvanUnboxing video Textix gift3:30.5
Darshan, Ethan, MaxCatapult Base2:451.25
EvanDesign sizing box5:001
Max, JayeshTeach Jayesh Creo basics3:00.5

Nov. 21 Scrimmage

21 Nov 2016
Nov. 21 Scrimmage Written, but not attended by Ethan By Omar, Darshan, Jayesh, Max, Tycho, Caitlin, Janavi, Austin, and Ethan

Task: To test our robot and gauge other team's progress

First, the team arrived at the Virani's house and boarded the MXP for a Arkansas dry run. We learned that it's pretty bumpy for passengers when you're driving on the highway, making the experience a bit uncomfortable. We'll need to fix that for the 8-hour drive to Arkansas.

When we arrived at the scrimmage, it was laid out like a normal tournament, though there were only nine teams to compete against. The matches were laid out so that each team competed five times, but only four of those five matches counted towards your actual score. During the first match, things were looking up. Our catapult and intake system were looking great, we had scored two or three balls, and our driving was pretty nice. We ended up winning that match. Then, everything went downhill. First, we had a issue with a loose chain, which we were able to fix. After that, however, our robot's catapult jammed so we had no useful way to score. This led to us losing our other three matches.

Despite all this, we ended up 6th place out of nine teams, which isn't *horrible*. We were also picked for an alliance.

Reflections

There are teams very ahead of us, so we need to step our game up for Arkansas. Our next goals, in order, should be to fix the chain system permanently, stop the catapult from jamming, add the beacon presser, and add the yoga-ball lifter. However, our collection system was really nice and worked >95% of the time. The only problem with it was that balls occasionally got stuck on top of the robot delivering to the catapult.

Meeting Log

22 Nov 2016
Meeting Log November 22, 2016 By Caitlin, Evan, Ethan, Darshan, Tycho, and Omar

Meeting Log November 22, 2016

Main focus for the day is fixing the problems encountered at the scrimmage and making autonomous progress.

Today's Meet Objectives

Organization / Documentation / Competition Prep

  • Review Journal
  • Pre-Match checklist
  • Continue Presentation

Software

  • Autonomously score
  • Put collection system in same class as flinger

Build / Modelling

  • Mount new particle bowl
  • Build button pusher

Service / Outreach

  • Update connection totals

Today's Work Log

Team MembersTaskStart TimeDuration
AllPlanning Meeting2:10pm.25
EthanCatapult size restraint2:301
Omar, DarshanButton press2:303
CaitlinPre-Match Checkist2:30.5
TychoAutonomous scoring3:001
EvanPresentation3:003
Ethan, CaitlinNew particle bowl3:30.25
TychoCollection system class4:001
Caitlin, EvanUpdate service totals5:001

Meeting Log

26 Nov 2016
Meeting Log November 26, 2016 By Ethan, Max, Tycho, Janavi, Darshan, Omar, and Evan

Meeting Log November 26, 2016

Today marks one week until our Arkansas Tournament. God help us all.

Today's Meet Objectives

Organization / Documentation / Competition Prep

  • Review Journal
  • Work on Presentation
  • Do Blog Posts

Software

  • Autonomous
  • Testing Code

Build / Modelling

  • Finish 2nd Level
  • Improve Catapult

Service / Outreach

  • Blog

Today's Work Log

Team MembersTaskStart TimeDuration
AllPlanning Meeting2:10pm.25
Omar, Darshan, EvanField Build2:002
Tycho, JanaviAutonomous2:004
EthanHousekeeping Duties2:004
MaxRobot Improvements2:004

Robot Frame and Rewiring

28 Nov 2016
Robot Frame and Rewiring By Jayesh, Omar, and Evan

Task: Build a frame to increase available surface area on robot to rewire current configuration

The wiring, which had been on the robot, had been a constant issue. The wiring tangled, interfered with the scoring mechanism, and led to some inefficiencies in electrical output. In order to increase the available space to reconfigure the inner workings of the robot, we built a second testrix layer, which also conveniently serves as a handle.

Reflections

The new level on the robot has given us a lot of much-needed flexibility for arranging the different parts. Now the core of our robot isn't a jungle of tangled cords. As we continued building the layer, we found it could be used for various other purposes besides simply space control. The back layer simultaneously stabilizes our scoring mechanism, allowing us to control our shot more. Besides the modules, the phone and power switch are also attached to the upper layer for ease-of-access. As we only made layers for the front and back, the sides of the robot are left open, nonetheless more free without the wires, for our cap ball lift (which is currently in progress, more on it in future posts).

Arkansas State Competition 2016

02 Dec 2016
Arkansas State Competition 2016 By Ethan, Evan, Caitlin, Janavi, Jayesh, Omar, Darshan, Max, and Tycho

Task: Compete in the 2016 Arkansas State Competition

This year, to give our team a better chance of going to super-regionals for the first time, we decided to enter the Arkansas regional. We were actually pretty far ahead compared to our last seasons. We had a finished robot, a working autonomous, and good drivers.

Upon arrival, we had to make some last minute changes to our robot in order to pass inspection, as it was too bumpy in the RV. So , we huddled in the school's band room and attached our side shields and team number, making it just in time for inspection. We set up our table for the competition as well.

Upon arriving to the hotel, we realized that we hadn't really practiced our presentation at all, so we had to hold a last minute session until 12. After that, a few team members fell asleep for the next day, but most boarded the RV and worked on the robot and autonomous until ~2 in the morning.

We woke up refreshed (totally), and went to the tournament. In order, we had: opening ceremony, the presentation, and then the four games. First, right before the presentation, we found that our robot, despite working the night before, now refused to accept any motor commands. This was due to the way our code handled controller events, so we had to change that last minute. Also, due to just having last minute practice in the presentation (and being tired), we didn't preform as well as we would have liked.

The Game

In the first match, we performed way better than we expected, and actually won the game. However, we discovered that our robot has a static issue due to the way the wheels slide, so we had to reboot it during the match.
In the second match, we lost. This was partially due to the static issue and partially due to the fact that we were paired with an inexperienced team. We helped show them the ropes, however, and saw a lot of the origins of our team in them. We wish them the best and hope they can progress.
In the third, fourth, and fifth match, we won all our matches, even though our static issue got worse. Our relatively consistent autonomous, paired with the beacon and ball scoring fared us well against our opponents. We need to build on these strengths, while also introducing end game flexibility with cap ball scoring.

We did not get picked for alliances, even though we were in 8th place with a 4-1 record. this was probably a knock on our scouting and relation building with the other teams. We'll make sure to build on that for future competitions.

Reflections

We had issues at the tournament due to static and scouting issues. The scouting issue was particularly bad due to these reasons:

  • Staying on the RV and not interacting with other teams
  • Alliance negotiations were started too late
  • Misjudging other teams

This tournament gave us valuable experience for the qualifiers we have coming up. We have now fixed the static and controller issues. We were also able to judge the progress of other teams and compare it to ours. By the time of the qualifier, we should have some advantages over the other teams.

Arkansas Analysis

10 Dec 2016
Arkansas Analysis By Caitlin, Omar, Darshan, Jayesh, Evan, Max, Tycho, Janavi, and Ethan

Task: Analyze what went wrong and right at Arkansas

We spent a good hour and a half analyzing what we needed to do differently at upcoming competitions, and how to better prepare in the upcoming school break.

Notes

Mechanical:

  • Anti static spray
  • Shorten wires and close wire ends
  • Stabilize USB connections to controllers
  • Cap Ball lift

Competition:

  • Driver Practice!!
  • Organize sub teams during competition
  • Scouting more and building connections
  • Stay aware and alert, no zoning out while in the pits especially
  • Line up robot based on tile mat seams
  • Control Award checklist done beforehand
  • RV shifts, no more than 1 onboard at a time

Presentation and Presence:

  • Mechanical demos
  • Videos of demos easily available if robot stops cooperating
  • Team costume and cart chariot
  • RV video PSA - Pay it Forward
  • Be more active on Twitter and link videos to judges
  • Have a fundraiser in the neighborhood

Reflections

The Arkansas competition taught us a lot about the system of success for this years competition. We are ahead in terms of progress relative to other years, now we can focus on scoring elements like the cap ball, along with the presentation.

QD Academy Scrimmage

18 Dec 2016
QD Academy Scrimmage By Ethan, Evan, Tycho, Max, Darshan, Caitlin, and Omar

Task: To test our robot in a tournament setting

On Dec. 18, we came to QD Academy to test our robot under tournament conditions. At Arkansas, we had frequent static issues on the mats provided, and we had trouble recreating the static in practice to prevent it, so we wanted to try to find a cure for it. As well, we've been improving our autonomous code, so we were excited to try that.

We did well at the scrimmage, compared to the teams that we went against (4-1). We were lucky to already have been to a tournament - and a regional at that, so we ended up placing 3rd, and our sister team placed 5th. However, we still ran into new, and worse, issues. First, the static issue reemerged, and became worse than when we were at the Arkansas tournament. As well, when we bumped into the beacons with enough speed, our robot would turn off, and we would have to completely reboot the robot at the end of the match.

To solve the static issue we had bought Staticide(TM), but we forgot to bring it, so we have no idea if it works for our robot or not. We tried rubbing down our robot with dryer sheets, but it just exacerbated the issue if it did anything at all. The beacon issue seemed also to be caused by the static discharge, but we haven't determined it conclusively yet.

Reflections

We scored a lot of points, but we need to optimize our autonomous for both sides to score even more. As well, we still need to solve the persistent static problem, as it will really harm us in January if it continues.

Meeting Log

31 Dec 2016
Meeting Log December 31, 2016 By Ethan, Evan, Tycho, and Caitlin

Meeting Log December 31, 2016

Today's Meet Objectives

Organization / Documentation / Competition Prep

  • Blog Fixes

Software

  • Test autonomous changes

Build / Modelling

  • Add swinging arms to the robot

Today's Work Log

Team MembersTaskStart TimeDuration
AllPlanning Meeting2:10pm.25
TychoTest Autonomous2:004
CaitlinBlog fixes/Cabling2:004
EthanSwinging Arms/Blog Fixes2:004
EvanSwinging Arms/Robot Fixes2:004

Tent Disassembly

07 Jan 2017
Tent Disassembly By Ethan, Omar, and Darshan

Task: Disassemble the tent covering our field

Dallas has been experiencing some bad weather for the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately, our field was outside, with a tent that was supposed to have "protected" it from the elements. That did not happen. When a particularly bad windstorm came, it tore down our tent and ripped holes in the top, so our field tiles were damaged. As well, it snowed/rained later that week, intensifying the damage, and bending the metal posts.

So, today we had to break it down in ~30°F weather. The metal was so bent that we had to cut the tent into pieces to remove it, and ice had frozen over the plastic siding in multiple areas, making it hard to move. There was also snow still on the roof of the tent, so we inadvertently dumped snow onto our field, probably further hurting our tiles.

Reflections

We need to find a secure way of keeping our field safe. As of now, we are just replacing the tent with another tent, which will most likely just be destroyed in the next windstorm.

Centurion's Helm of +2 Swankiness

11 Jan 2017
Centurion's Helm of +2 Swankiness By Max

Task: Make some Roman helmets for the team

We’re following a Roman theme this year, but nobody’s gonna know it if we don’t look the part. So, we decided it was time to make some Roman soldier style helmets. The most Roman helmets cover the top of the head with the body of the helm, with two additional plates on hinges that cover the cheeks, a protrusion at the back similar to the bill of a ball cap to protect the back of the neck, and of course the iconic curved crest, which would point forwards on the common soldier’s helmet (if the soldier could afford it) or from side to side on the helmet of a centurion (the best soldier of in a group of 100). While it would be nice to mimic the helmet entirely, we don’t have the time or the funds to do that ourselves, and instead opted for a more homespun version.

Our helmets each consist of a construction helmet, the sawn-off head of a broom, and a single screw holding the two together. It’s simple, but it’s cheap, easy, and definitely gets the job done.

Reflections

The helmet has most of the features of a Roman helmet already, but it is still missing the hinged cheek guards. We likely won’t add hinged ones because they could be distracting to drivers wearing them and they would take too long to build, but I have a plan to cut stationary ones out of foam board and socket them into a pair of empty slots I noticed on the sides of the helmets. Also, Tycho suggested that, at least for the drive team, we could fit a few helmets with safety glasses mounted on hinges to reduce the chance that the drivers accidentally go to the playing field without their protective wear.

Wylie East Qualifier

14 Jan 2017
Wylie East Qualifier By Ethan, Evan, Max, Tycho, Darshan, Jayesh, Omar, Janavi, and Caitlin

Task: To go to the Wylie East robotics tournament

On Jan. 14, we headed out to Wylie East HS for a North Texas qualifier. Our main goal was to test our new code and additions to the robot - we've added static shields and staticide to protect ourselves from the issues that we suffered from last tournament. We had high prospects this tournament, with a robot further ahead than we've ever been before and a "fun" presentation.

We ended up 3-2 in the main rounds, and at 4th place. The first round we lost was a magestic, catastrophic failure. Our robot ran into the metal sides and short circuited. Then, within ten seconds, every other robot had shut off. We were gettting destroyed at that point, but the powers-that-be decided to call a redo. So, we restarted, and insted of getting destroyed, we got massively, absolutely destroyed by a huge margin. The second time we lost, our robot tipped over, and we couldn't get it back up.

We advanced to finals, and we won the semi-finals round easily. Then, in finals, we faced a combo-team of Technical Difficulties and Technibots, which proceeded to stomp the floor with us and set a new world record in the process.

Reflections

Our main failures through the tournament were that we just can't currently score enough points as higher ranking teams. However, we have a cap ball lift in progress, so well be able to score way more soon. And, we did advance to Regionals, so we've got that going for us.

Wylie East Postmortem

15 Jan 2017
Wylie East Postmortem By Ethan

Task: Analyze what we did wrong and right at Wylie

At Wylie, we did decently. We were mildly surprised that we actually qualified for regionals, but we did, so that's pretty nice.

Mechanical Problems

  • Static shocks
  • Catapult reliability
  • Program unpredictability
  • Autonomous issues

Others

  • We need to be more motivated
  • We need to practice driving

Helping Imperial Robotics

03 Feb 2017
Helping Imperial Robotics By Ethan, Evan, and Tycho

Task: Help Imperial Robotics before their qualifier

As said in previous posts, we have a sister team, Imperial Robotics, and it would be really nice to see them advance to regionals alongside us. In their previous qualifier, they got really close. So, with help, we should be able to push them over the qualifying line.

Tycho, our lead programmer, helped Rohit and Abhi with their code. Imperial was having servo control issues in which they couldn't continuously rotate their ball-intake servo when pressing a button, and Tycho fixed that, along with other control issues. Tycho also worked on their bass launcher, making it more reliable.

Evan and I helped Imperial with building and driving. We fixed their wheel and turning issues as referenced in this post. Their problem was that a motor wasn't working at 100%, and it interfered in driving. As well, Evan gave Imperial advice on driving, and demonstrated driving techniques. As well, we helped with general fixes of their robot, as most of their team members were focussing on the presentation.

Reflections

Imperial ended up not advancing to regionals, unfortunately. :(

Forester Field House Robotics Competition

10 Feb 2017
Forester Field House Robotics Competition By Janavi, Omar, Tycho, Max, Jayesh, Evan, Caitlin, and Darshan

Task: Compete in the Forester Field House Robotics Competition

We started off with our presentation pretty early, and everything was going pretty well until our robot had a static issue, and stopped working. We were able to cover it up pretty well without the judges noticing. One of the judges seemed to like our rap, and was interested in seeing the R.V. Our presentation ran a little long and cut into our question asking time. But other than that the presentation went pretty well. As for scouting, Evan and Omar went around and talked to all the teams, we even created flyers them to pass out the all the teams.

We created a common excel sheet that we all shared on the google drive so everyone could scout when they got time. This time we actually put on shields in advance, and they weren’t made of duct tape! But we also had to replace the core power distribution module. And to do that we had to take off the shields. This resulted in us scrambling at the last minute to reattach the shields while rolling the robot over to the field. We replaced the CPDM because in the past it has been constantly resetting, and seems to have a faulty U.S.B connection. Replacing the CPDM as well as spraying staticide in between match really helped to improve our reliability during the matches. This resulted in us winning the rest of the matches. We ended up in 5th place. During the Alliance Selection we were the first pick of the first alliance captain. During the semifinals around 9 beacons had stopped working and the judges had resorted to holding up spoons with flags when the beacon button was pushed. In the end our alliance won and we also got the second place inspire award. This meant that if we hadn’t advanced already we would have had advanced during this completion.

Reflections

All in all we’re pretty happy with the results of this competition, our robot was more reliable than it usually is and we were able to completely stress test it. We believe the improved reliability was the result of replacing our CPDM and the improved side shields. We may have damaged our previous one simply through electrostatic discharge, ironically making us more susceptable to ESD in our other matches. Decreasing the conductive materials on the outside by properly blocking them with shields will make us more reliable in the future. Next time we need to make a complete check list so we don't forget the import things, like staticide.

DISD STEM Expo

11 Feb 2017
DISD STEM Expo By Ethan, Evan, Janavi, Jayesh, Caitlin, and Max

Task: Present to kids at the DISD STEM Expo

Every year, DISD hosts a STEM expo for local companies and groups to present to kids, in hope of inspiring them to go into a STEM career. So, for our booth, we drove our RV into the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center to present. We had three activities run by Iron Reign.

The first activity was helping kids 3D print keychains using Google Sketchup. We had nine laptops set up for them to use, all hooked up to four Flashforge Finders. When we first got to the Expo, we discovered that two of our printers had filament issues, so we were running on half capacity the whole day. Even then, we probably helped about 50 kids with their keychains.

In the front of the RV, we had laptops running MinecraftEdu, which features having a teacher have admin control, moderation, a dedicated server, and no PvP. MinecraftEdu is supposed to help kids with problem solving, bolster their creativity, and assist them with working with other people.

Outside of the RV, we were running a robotics workshop where kids could program Lego Mindstorms to do various activities, including robot sumo. Our coach and a few volunteers(from one of our sponsors, BigThought) were working that section.

Judging and Awards

16 Feb 2017
Judging and Awards By Caitlin, Jayesh, Omar, Tycho, and Max

Task: Increase chances to advance in judging

In our competitions we really can't rely on our robot performing as well as it does in practice and our sparring matches with Imperial. If we're going to increase our chances of advancing from Regionals to Super-Regionals 90% of the time it's going to be from judging. We've always had rocky presentations in my opinion, but this year we're getting our energy up and trying to get everyone more interactive. We've heard that the organizers are having trouble getting enough judges, so it's likely the judges will be a little inexperienced. We're making a colored tab and blurb for each award to place at the front of our journal. We'll have a little paragraph on why we think we should be considered for each award, followed by a handful of key posts we believe back up our claim. Each award has a color, each post gets a number, and we place colored tabs (think these post-it flags) with a number written on the printed page.

Reflections

Judges don't have much time to inspect pages before a presentation, so it's the job of the first person who goes in to give the journal, a presentation copy (or 2 depending on the table space), and a short description of what's going on. This includes reference pages such as the awards and a copy of our scouting flier. Judges mostly listen and take notes during a presentation, so we don't want to overload them with pages to look at initially, but have enough information available to look through at the main judges meeting. The easier it is for a judge to get a sense of our team, the higher likelihood they will mention us in award considerations. This is a hard balance to strike, but the tabs served us well last year and I should have gotten them together again a while ago. Jayesh and Omar went through our tag page, picking the key ones to bring up. Tycho and Max continued working on their technical posts.

The Imperator Will See You Now

18 Feb 2017
The Imperator Will See You Now By Max

Task: Design a new banner

For the past year or two, we've brought along a big vertical banner to our competitions to help boost our presence and make it easier for judges, other teams, and even members of our own team to find us in the pits or on the field. But the banner we've been using has become outdated: Since last year, members have come and gone, we've decided on a different visual theme, and, of course, we've built an entirely new robot. The time has come to begin again.

We plan to use the same banner stand as last time (although we've dyed it red to match the helmets) to conserve materials, so the banner will have the same dimensions as before. Since we have the same amount of canvas to work with, the design will also incorporate the same components as the last version:

  • Team number (in Hindu-Arabic and/or Roman numerals)
  • Team name
  • Picture of the robot
  • Picture(s) of team members
  • Sponsor logos (optional)

With some spare time between meetings, I made a draft layout for the banner in Microsoft OneNote. The previous version wasn't much more than some pictures we found and a couple text boxes thrown onto a plain white background, so I wanted to make this banner look like more thought and effort had been put into its design than last year's. I decided on a red background with black and gold trim designs to better match the Roman theme we're going for, with the team number and name at the top, the robot's picture in the middle, and a grid of our team members at the base. To make it all fit together more smoothly, I also planned to get a green-screened picture of the robot and to make individual charicatures instead of pictures for each team member. See if you can determine who's who in the team pictures on the draft version.

(there's a picture of it here kbye)

At the next meet, the team decided that the layout was good to go, so I got to work making a neater version in Adobe Illustrator. With the design complete, you can see how the complete banner looks in Adobe Illustrator below. It'll take a special printer to make it in the correct size, and we'll have to wait a little longer to get access to it, but all in all it should be smooth sailing from now on.

(aw dayum that's a bootyful banner if i do say so myself)

Reflections

The choice to use charicatures of the team members this year on the banner as opposed to a team photo (like we used last year) was one of the most impactful decisions to be made about the subject, but I think that it was the right judgement. Hopefully this can play at least a small part in establishing our presence among the many teams that we will encounter in regionals (and perhaps beyond), but only time will tell how effective the banner can be in competition.

I Am Become Aquila, Destroyer of Worlds

19 Feb 2017
I Am Become Aquila, Destroyer of Worlds By Max

Task: Resurrect the Ancient One

The Great One, Aqui'la, has slumbered for too long. Since the deity lost Its battle with the accursed Gravitae a year ago, Its physical form has crumbled to pieces, leaving It powerless to bend the world to our will. As the last High Priest and Grand Memer of Its reign, the duty falls to me to return It to Its full power so that It may reign once more. I must do more than rebuild its effigy, however. To ensure It is not defeated by the forces of Physicks once again, the body must be as strong as the mountains, and as inpenetrable as the darkness.

Time is short; I must work quickly. I have retrieved the bones of the husk which once housed the Great One, and will use the unholy power of the Tri-Dimensional Prynter through which I first summoned it to rebuild the body. The ABS Plastyck, black as night, with which the old bones were once built, shall be the regent with which I will revive It.

At the stroke of midnight last night, I performed the Ritual of Creo to obtain the designs with which I may summon Aqui'la. With haste, I brought them to the Prynter. As I write these words, the new form takes shape; the barrier between our world and Its wears thin. The Great One draws nearer with each moment. Hark! The Prynter's work has been completed. I go now to piece together the old bones with the new, and conduct Its conciousness into the new form.

Reflections

O FORTUNA

VELUT LUNA

STATU VARIABILIS

Pre-Scouting Regionals

19 Feb 2017
Pre-Scouting Regionals By Ethan

Task: Find out information on teams at Regionals

One of the things we're weak on this year is scouting. Dylan did some amazing scouting work last year that got us to regionals, but he is no longer on the team. So, for regionals this year, we want to be prepared. We took the list of teams attending the regionals and searched for any teams that we've either gone against and logged, or have any active social media presence. Then, we logged what their robot did and whether it was in teleop or autonomous. You can view the current sheet here.

If any team needs help making an online engineering notebook, contact ethanhelfman@outlook.com. It helps everyone when you put your notebook online.

2017 North Texas Regional

25 Feb 2017
2017 North Texas Regional By Ethan, Evan, Jayesh, Charlotte, Tycho, Caitlin, Max, Darshan, and Janavi

Task: Win the North Texas regionals

Summary: We won

On Febuary 25, we drove our RV to W.E. Pete Ford Middle School, in Allen, TX. The tournament was split into two divisions, and for many of our members, this was our first time encountering that layout. We didn't have any of our team members going to Dean's List interviews this time. We still didn't have an operable cap-ball lift, and this was our first time using our flywheel shooter in a tournament setting.

We did decently in our presentation, but it could have gone better. We made a few missteps in our presentation and had a few stumbles. However, we did a great job of presenting to the judges who were walking around. We would greet judges and attempt to present to them, ending up presenting to two separate groups of judges about our robot's design, helping low-income families in STEM fields, and our team history. As well, we talked to one of the FIRST directors, Ken Johnson, about our MXP, and we ended up bringing him out to it to show off.

In the game, we did pretty well. We ended up 5th place, and got picked as 2nd pick for the 1st alliance. We ended up getting all the way to finals, but we didn't win due to the fact that the opposing alliance had Technical Difficulties on it. During the normal games, we won [3-1]. We had issues with our beacon-pressing erasers falling off, so we designed a new "eraser" out of foam tape with a layer of thick tape on top in order to still be able to press the button. Our robot did stop responding during one game, but compared to our previous experiences, that was actually pretty good.

The reflections post can be viewed here.

Regional Postmortem

02 Mar 2017
Regional Postmortem By Ethan, Caitlin, Austin, Jayesh, Omar, Darshan, Max, and Tycho

Task: Analyse what we did right and wrong at regionals

Scouting:

Good

  • Detailed scouting sheets
  • Had good inter-team dynamic
  • Organized
  • Pre-scouted

Bad

  • Not scouting matches
  • Didn't record matches
  • Scouting sheet on one computer
  • Only one scouting team

Notes: While we did well with scouting, it could have gone off much better. We made some mistakes by accidentally scouting teams in the other division and not watching matches when we should have.

Presentation:

Good

  • Eventually got into a groove
  • 🔥🔥Darshan's sick beats🔥🔥
  • Emphasized MXP
  • We were entertaining

Bad

  • Messed up the intro
  • Not about past achievements
  • Transition timing
  • Only one scouting team

Notes: We need to work on the group dynamic and enthusiasm a bit more. As well, we're going to stick Darshan under the cart so he can pop out with those 🔥🔥sick beats🔥🔥.

To-do

Promotion:

  • Need to make a reveal video
  • Need to advertise on social media
  • Design booth for super-regionals
  • Write more blog posts
  • Promote & Outreach videos
  • Banner holder designs

Design & Programming:

  • Fix robot shooting accuracy
  • Replace erasers with silicone
  • Cap the ball
  • Robot vision
  • Build 2nd spinner
  • Model the robot

Meet me in the pit- Tent and Shields

04 Mar 2017
Meet me in the pit- Tent and Shields By Austin, Caitlin, Tycho, Omar, Darshan, Jayesh, and Max

Tent Building

Since we had the general idea of the shape and size of the actual pit tent, we set out to either build or find a tent that we felt best fit the theme we selected. We chose to start off by trying to build a structure via PVC pipe and a tarp like substance that we could drape over the pipe, we handed off the idea and models to Mr. Virani to have him figure out what PVC requirements we would have to fulfill and the cost to build. While he crunched the numbers a group left the house to see if we could find a suitable material to drape over the structure; Tycho, Mrs. Lux, and I went to a local army surplus store in hopes of finding a parachute like material that we could use, however the only cloth available was a very heavy and expensive canvas that we decided would end up crushing the frame, (we didn’t leave empty handed though since the store had lots of fun items). After returning to the house we had another council with Mr. Virani and decided to consider other options since the PVC and tarp idea required to much effort and too much American currency. Various hardware and surplus store websites later we found a rather unconventional shaped tent used to cover cars that was built in two sections each measuring 8’X9’ at their base, we concluded to buy the tent and use the parts to only build one of the sections, and since the pit measures 9’X9’, use the remaining foot of space in the front for table with room for a TV to play various team promoting videos meant to catch a passerby’s eye.

Shields

In terms of the shield, the basic form is completed and ready to be upgraded via LED’s and insignias which will hopefully be mounted before competition. Due to the use of recycled parts the shields are cheap, sturdy, easy to build, and most importantly relatively accurate looking. Expanding on how they were made, the core is old floor tiles from a competition field that have be locked together on one face and had the remaining teeth cut off. To provide structural integrity, old black metal broom handles were attached via zip-ties length wise to the back face of the shield bridging the gap between the two halves. Next more zip-ties were used to create a basic handle design to carry the light shield around. We chose a weathered red duct tape to cover the front face of the shield since it had the appearance of old weathered wood and saved us the pain of having to paint the shield, following the red duct tape the outside edges of the shield were gilded with a nice golden duct tape. To finish off the shield I used a drill press to mount some spare tetrix pieces to the inside of an ikea bowl and pushed the extruding tetrix remnants through the shield and zip-tied them together to keep them from coming out. Oddly enough most of the parts I used were sourced from our robotics “warehouse” and are easy to find or cheap to buy, so building one of these shields on your own would be easy. Not only is the shield light, cheap, and recycled it’s also pretty sturdy, once we had one built we were eager to play with it and made this little video for you to enjoy below.

Spring Break Doodle Poll

10 Mar 2017
Spring Break Doodle Poll By Charlotte, Ethan, Evan, Caitlin, Omar, Max, Tycho, Janavi, Jayesh, Darshan, and Austin

Task: Spring Break Meeting Planning

In order to organize a plan for our spring break meetings, we created a poll on doodle.com. We all had individual plans for the break, and with the Doodle Poll we were able to see an overview of everyone's availability. As we have a Super Regional competition coming up, we are on a surge during spring break to complete our many goals regarding the robot, the presentation and more. We have been staying later than usual and attending more meetings to get as much work done as possible. We are anxious and excited to compete in this competition and are willing to put as many hours as we need in order to be completely prepared, including spending time during our break to attend meetings.

Reflections

We have used Doodle Polls in the past, and we plan to use then in the future, as they are helpful in planning our meetings in preparation for Super Regionals. It is important for us to stay organized as a team so that we can focus more on our robot and the game. A tool that seems menial, like the Doodle Poll, is very helpful for our team.

Dallas Women in STEM

11 Mar 2017
Dallas Women in STEM By Caitlin, Tycho, Max, Jayesh, Janavi, Omar, and Austin

Task: Teach LEGO EV3 and 3D modelling to girls

The Yale club of Dallas organized a STEM event for groups of girls in the city. We took the Mobile Tech XPerience out front for 3D modelling and set up 8 EV3s with laptops and a sumo field inside.

Programming

We led 6-8 girls at a time through the EV3 environment to make a basic sumo program, going through a tournament, and then a final grand melee at the end of the sessions. A couple had experience with EV3, more with Vex, but this session was a lot of their first experiences with programming and robots. Tycho taught the thought process of the program as we went through the steps and I presented on a projector as he went, sometimes taking over talking when we needed breaks. The port view in the programming environment was a great tool to explain the color sensor's light intensity measurement as we could just ask everyone to plug in their bots and see how the numbers changed with the environment. The session was too short to really let them explore what they could do in the program, but we did give hints that the Power variable was something they could tweak. The girls that took the risks in their program generally found that option and won the round robin.

Everyone in the room had a bunch of fun, chaperones included. One girl realized that she had a NXT at home, and now that she knew she could do cool stuff with it, she was excited to try it out. A lot of the teachers asked about the competition levels, and we're hopeful that some of the kids will join a FLL team and the 8th graders going to high school will look for a FTC or FRC team.

Teaching Sumobots at #DallasWEST! #omgrobots #mobiletechxperience #dallascityoflearning

A post shared by Iron Reign Robotics FTC (@team6832) on

Modelling

For the first deployment in a while all 4 printers worked! We were able to print every single design from the day. A couple of the laptops don't have the correct export to STL option, but we were able to work around it by grabbing a flash drive and bringing the file over to a different one. The groups in each session were pretty small compared to the waves that normally come by in an expo, so we could spend a good amount of time making sure no-one was lost. Some people grabbed the wrong design when they came back, but we've gotten the swing of things and sent text notifications to the teachers pretty quickly. Since we were parked out front the groups passed us on the way out and picked up their keychains.

Practice Laps

11 Mar 2017
Practice Laps By Omar, Jayesh, Tycho, Darshan, and Evan

Task: Get some organized driving practice in before Supers

With Superregionals drawing near, we thought it prudent to better organize ourselves in terms of driving teams. We've never felt that we were 100% solid, with people not knowing what to do at certain times in the match. For example, our "Coach" position was almost entirely dedicated to yelling out the match time in 10 second intervals. Today, we talked about our three different roles (Driver, Co-Driver, and Coach) and what each should do. We did several practice matches, rotating through positions each time just to gain practice in each.

Reflections

A large fault our team has always had is focusing too much on improving and working on the robot and not leaving enough time for driver practice. In the coming Spring Break week, we hope to meet several times in order to make sure our teamwork and communication is solid.

Promote Video 2017

15 Mar 2017
Promote Video 2017 By Max

Task: Create a video outlining Iron Reign's outreach

We have had a lot of interest garnered towards the STEM outreach the team has committed to. When we found that FTC encouraged the creation of a video outlining the STEM outreach we had done, we saw it as an opportunity to show others a general overview of our activities. With Max's excellent voiceover, we made a video talking about how long the team's been at it, the various STEM expos/events we do, and how the problem of summer learning loss lead us to making the Mobile Tech Xperience.

Reflections

Making a connection and advancing our community has always been a priority with our team. This video helps give us a short summary to show parents and children the benefit of commiting to the STEM field, specifically in robotics. We started because of two parents who decided to start a robotics team with some energetic middle school 7 years back, and look at us now. We want to tell these interested parents and kids about how their dedication can create something special, and we're doing that by using ourselves and FIRST as examples. We plan to spread this video to those looking to get into FIRST, or even those simply interested in what our team does besides build complicated contraptions.

Dinner Discussions

17 Mar 2017
Dinner Discussions By Caitlin, Max, Tycho, Jayesh, Darshan, and Evan

Task: Set last practices' priorities

Many members were out of town this break but we still managed to make a good deal of progress. What we forgot to do was post about it. Github kept track of code edits and we have other records of the practices, so we have a list of 11 articles to be written by this Sunday at the latest. Tomorrow's practice (Saturday March 18th) will be focused on:

  • Driver practice
  • Presentation practice
  • Staging as much as possible for packing

Reflections

Each member is assigned an article for this weekend and we won't be taking up practice time for this. The list was originally written on my plate after I had pizza, but it's now being sent in our chat and updated as people write. Omar posted his first, an hour before I'm writing this.
Also: Ethan - Please. Don't use backslashes. I have to edit your posts 90% of the time because your paths break in the tag index pages.

Beautiful. Truly.

Editing the Reveal Video

17 Mar 2017
Editing the Reveal Video By Evan and Omar

One man's harrowing journey through copyright free music lists

The Robot Reveal video is underway. With most of the filming done, the sky grows dark and the day ends. A night time of editing sets in for the poor miscreant who volunteered for the task. Huddled in the corner with a raw fish and his precious computer, the boy opens premiere pro to begin. All is right with the world. The five hour long dramatic saga of trying to figure out the dang code to his Adobe account is through and the password has been changed. He knew he never should have let his family use his student status for a discount. But it's over and he's decided to leave it in his past. Time to edit...

So the editing for the Robot Reveal video has begun and so far it's gone fine. I had an easy time getting it all in and except one crash(everything was recovered) it's been good. There won't be too much extreme editing to do. Nothing mind bending. Mostly cutting and arranging. The big problem now is finding a song to use that fits the video. I'm having trouble finding something pleasant sounding, fitting, un-copyrighted, and that lines up with the length of the video. I've been listening to a ridiculous amount of un-copyrighted music. An insane amount. It's not copyrighted for a reason. No man or woman or animal or object should have to endure this. The un-copyrighted playlists should be used as an enhanced interrogation technique and then banned by the UN for being a violation of basic human rights. Its all a bunch of extremely similar songs that should either be in the background of a shirtless guys vlog or the basis for an art students performance piece. A few outliers are some EDM and elevator music and I don't know which one makes me want to pour hot wax into my ear holes more. I'm listening to a song right as I'm writing this. I think it's the background music for the most generic cooking channel on YouTube ever. One way or another I'm going to get this done. Maybe I've made a few hyperboles throughout the post but the robot reveal will be finished. I've saved all the music I think could work into a playlist that I'll let everyone give a listen to at tomorrow's meeting. Now I must return to my hell.

Packing lists

18 Mar 2017
Packing lists By Caitlin, Janavi, Ethan, Omar, and Evan

Task: Get prepped for the trip

Every post I write about organization seems to start off talking about how Iron Reign hasn't had the best track record with this sort of thing in the past, but we try anyways. So, like always, we're trying to get everything put together that we can: journals, presentations, props, pit setups, etc. Tools are a little more organized than normal because I'm obsessively trying to make sure nothing important gets lost in these last practices. Batteries have been checked for internal resistance, freshely labeled, and the battery box has more USB ports for our dozen phones. Even the Powerpole box showed up again, back from hiding inside another box across the room...

Reflections

The tent materials are already pretty much together, but we need to clear off the two rolling carts and put together everything for the front setups. None of that is going to be used in practice so we're free to stage it for packing. I think we'll be needing a larger box for judging props, everything can rest inside, but we can't close it up. Longer travel distance means we'll need a sturdier method. The battery box is pretty self contained already, and the Container Store chest of drawers has miraculously remained in use, so we won't be scrambling to pack tools that people are using up until the load. I'm worried about the journal printouts and the control award honestly, I'm going to print all new posts at home on Monday and then punch them into our binder. If i can find someone free then I'll enlist them to add detail and diagrams to our Control Award writeup. Rise of Hepheastus 4216 was a huge help with Control! They gave us an idea of how much to write, and we would still be a little lost without them.

Super Regionals - The First Day

23 Mar 2017
Super Regionals - The First Day By Ethan, Evan, Tycho, Max, Jayesh, Janavi, Caitlin, Darshan, Omar, Charlotte, and Austin

Task: Go to super regionals, set up, and present

Way too early in the morning, on March 22nd, the Iron Reign team gathered in darkness. It was approximately 65 Farenheit and gusts around 12 mph were blowing in from the South. Under this cover of darkness, a bus pulled into our school. As the trees shivered in the wind and the stray dogs around our school howled, we boarded the bus.

Of course, we were boarding the bus to head down to Athens, GA, to go to the South Super Regional tournament, and we hoped, to advance to Worlds. On our way there, we stopped at Sunset HS to pick up RoboBison Amistad, the other team from our school district. Then, we two teams were on our way.

No road trip operated by DISD can ever be simple, and this one was no exception. Our coach was driving our chase vehicle AKA our robotics RV, but managed to beat us there by five hours. The team ended up being on the same bus for twenty total hours, stopping three times. Luckily, on our way down there, many of us got to see sights such as the Mississippi River for the first time.

First time crossing the Mississippi for a couple of us! #superregionals

A post shared by Iron Reign Robotics FTC (@team6832) on

Finally, we arrived in Athens at 1 in the morning. Some of the team split off to sleep, while others broke off to work on the robot. But, it was late, and we all went to bed soon.

The next, first real day of the tournament, we woke up bright and early. We were one of the first ones to have pit load-in, and we actually managed to do everything in a timely manner. Our tent that we designed was slightly bigger than we thought, but the teams neighboring us were fine with it, so everything worked out in the end. We did a little bit of preliminary scouting and talked to a few teams. We also got our robot through inspections.

Finally, we went into judging, and it was the best presentation that we've done this year. We had two new team members added to the presentation, and we pulled it off flawlessly. As well, we added a new visual gag, with Darshan jumping out at the judges from under the cart. We got asked some very good questions that I can't remember, but the judges were generally very impressed.

Reflections

See Postmortem.

South Superregionals Day Two

24 Mar 2017
South Superregionals Day Two By Max, Tycho, Omar, Jayesh, Darshan, Austin, Charlotte, Caitlin, Evan, Ethan, and Janavi

Task: Reminisce on our first six Superregionals matches

After a decent night's rest, we began Day Two at around 7 AM. A lot of our tools and materials were still on our RV, so we first moved them over to our pit. Our match schedule said that we'd have nine matches beginning with Match #1 (just our luck). After the...interesting Pokemon-themed opening ceremonies, we began the day with our first match.

Match 1: Our alliance partner was Thorn's Army, and we faced Greased Lightning and Guzzoline Robotics. We lost; we didn't earn as many points in autonomous or teleop. It was our first game anyway; just a warmup. No big deal.

Match 2: Our alliance partner was Saber Robotics, and we faced Aperture Science and The Prototypes. We lost; tied in teleop, but our autonomous didn't score as much as theirs. Warmup game #2, no big deal.

Match 3: Our alliance partner was 4-H Rohming Robotics, and we faced Team Duct Tape and Twisted Axles. We won; even though neither of us were able to cap, we nailed our autonomous and teleop periods.

Match 4: Our alliance partner was Static Void, and we faced East Cobb Robotics and Team CHAOS. We won; our autonomous didn't score as much (we missed a beacon and a ball), but our partner was able to cap and our combined teleop scored more.

Match 5: Our alliance partner was LASA MurPHy, and we faced Diatomic Dingos and Blue Crew, Too. We won; our autonomous worked great and scored well, which made up for our lackluster teleop period.

Match 6: Our alliance partner was Technical Difficulties, and we faced the Rockettes and LASA Ultra Violet. We won; once again, our autonomous worked great (we missed a ball though), we scored more particles in teleop, and our partner was able to cap. Four in a row!

We felt pretty good about this day, since we came off of a four win streak. However, we still worked as long as we could on improving the reliability of our autonomous. Once the pits were closed, we were directed to the team social, where there was Super Smash Bros. and DJ Mickey Nightrain. It seemed like a fun time (Tycho tried his best at professional Smash), but roboticists usually aren't the type to be out on a dance floor. Jayesh is an exception because he's weird.

As well, we were interviewed by a few groups of judges, and performed well in the interviews. We froze up a few times, but it worked out. Also, we invited some of the judges onto our RV.

Reflections

Even though we were able to do a lot of work this day, we're slightly disappointed in our tiredness. Even though the RoboBisons had brought an entire field with them, we didn't really think about asking them to let us use it to practice. We were very exhausted, and with a half-still-sick Mr. Virani, we think we just weren't enthused enough to stay up late and do some more work. If we had, we might've had the small bit of reliability we needed to win more matches with just our autonomous. ;-; Either way, we're proud of the work we did. Tycho did a great job driving for all the matches. Note for next year - we neeeeeeeed more than one driver. On to Day Three!

South Superregional - Day Three

25 Mar 2017
South Superregional - Day Three By Jayesh, Tycho, Omar, Max, Darshan, Austin, Charlotte, Caitlin, Evan, Ethan, and Janavi

Task: Reminisce on our last three Superregionals matches

Our final competition day began with the driver team rushing to the pits because of a warning given by the game officials for the first match's teams to reach the pits earlier than expected. We reached in time, in fact about an hour before the match actually began. This mild inconvenience did give us time to formulate a strategy against our opponents, the high-scoring mechromancers.

Match 1: Our alliance partner was Neutrinos, and we faced Mechromancers Redfish. We lost; The Neutrinos disconnected early and we had made a strategy of denying the scoring of the Mechromancers. We were relatively succesful, halving their usual scoring output, but without the expected scoring of the Neutrinos, we lost.

Match 2: Our alliance partner was Guzzoline Robotics, and we faced Mouse Spit and Browncoats. We won a very close game, where a blocking penalty by Mouspit helped us win our closest game of the tournament.

Match 3: Our alliance partner was KNO3, and we faced The League of Legendary Scientists and Tundrabots. We lost a 15 point game, where a miscue in our autonomous positioning proved fatal and cost us the winning points of the match.

The match schedule we had today would be our toughest sleight of games for the entire tournament. Despite the unfortunate circumstances of the Neutrinos disconnecting early into our first match, we played decently well and had close games against our toughest competition.

Reflections

Our last loss ended up proving worse than anyone could've expected. In the award ceremony we figured out we were one spot on the leaderboard from advancing. Due to our aquisition of the Judge's award and our position on the leaderboard, we were named first alternate for Worlds. Unfortunate for us, we hope to do better next year.

YouthSpark with Microsoft

15 Apr 2017
YouthSpark with Microsoft By Caitlin, Jayesh, Ethan, Evan, Charlotte, Omar, Max, Tycho, Austin, Darshan, and Janavi

Task: Mobile Tech XPerience's appearance at the Meyerson

The Meyerson Symphony Center hosted a Microsoft YouthSpark event this Saturday with activities from robotics to VR to 3D printing. We set up the sumo laptops up in the atrium and the 3D in the MXP outside, right next to the Perot tech van. The tech van had most of their setup outside with a smaller piece inside, and we worked pretty well in tandem. (I have it on high authority from a random girl that walked in that ours was cooler)

Reflections

The groups of kids coming by were spread out so we couldn't teach a group of 8 all at once like in previous experiences. Thankfully we had BigThought volunteers helping out. We couldn't have done it without the 5 of them. Tycho and I ran through the presentation for them at the beginniile we still thought that's what the plan was going to be, so they knew how to teach it after a few more pointers. Out of necessity it was basically one-on-one teaching, but that meant many of the kids got much more into it than they would have in a larger group. I had one mom comment that this was the most focused she had ever seen her daughter, and a couple of boys tweaked their program so much they ended up winning against everyone except each other. This event definitely got a lot of kids really excited about robotics, and we're hoping they'll look into a team or a club at their schools.

Keychain modeling went smoothly, and we ended up getting all the models printed or printing before leaving, and most given to a parent or kid at the event. We got addresses for the leftover few and are planning on sending them off within a day or two. A group of friends worked on a collaberative house, one doing the rooms, one the design, one the roof. It turned into a massive house when they had to leave, and we made sure to tell the kids and the parents where to find SketchUp if they looked interested. We had a huge number of kids throughout the day and it was a great event and great group of volunteers to teach with.

Discover Summer Resource Fair

29 Apr 2017
Discover Summer Resource Fair By Ethan, Evan, Max, Tycho, and Charlotte

Task: Present to kids at the Discover Summer Resource Fair

Today, we brought the MXP to the DISD Discover Summer Resource Fair. We talked to about 250 people, including the Mayor of Dallas. We helped about 50 people create and print keychains using Google Sketchup. In the front of the RV, we introduced about 200 people to Lego Robotics, and assisted them in creating sumo bots.

The goal of this event was to inspire kids to go into STEM programs, and I believe it was a success. Several kids came up to us and asked us questions about camps, as well as how to get into STEM activities. As well, we increased visibility of the Dallas City of Learning group.

Reflections

These events are very good for increasing FIRST and STEM exposure in local communities, and we will continue doing them in the future. As well, we need to work on accommodating more people in a limited space.

UIL Robotics 2017

19 May 2017
UIL Robotics 2017 By Ethan, Evan, Tycho, Charlotte, Austin, Omar, and Janavi

Task: Compete in the UIL Robotics 2017 State Tournament

The UIL Robotics State Tournament is a Texas-only invitational based upon a team's performance in Texas qualifiers and regionals. Since we preformed so well in the North Texas Regionals, winning the first place Inspire Award, we qualified for UIL as well as Super Regionals.

While the tournament is planned with FIRST's help, it differs from a regular FTC tournament. First, the only awards are for the robot game. This harms Iron Reign from the get-go since we work heavily on our journal.

We did well in the robot game, but not amazingly. We went about 4-2, but got carried in some matches. We got chosen for a alliance, but lost in the semi-final round. This year at UIL wasn't much to brag about, so the reflection is the most important part.

Reflections

We learned many lessons at UIL. First, this was our first senior-less competition, so we have to learn how to moderate ourselves without them. Secondly, we ought to put more emphasis on our robot and driving. While the journal is definitely important, we could've won an extra game or two by practicing driving and keeping our robot in working condition. Finally, we need to work on delegation of roles for the upcoming year, as there'll be a vacumn left by the outgoing seniors.

Turn Up! 2017 at Frontiers of Flight

24 Jun 2017
Turn Up! 2017 at Frontiers of Flight By Janavi, Jayesh, Caitlin, Tycho, Omar, Evan, Charlotte, Ethan, and Darshan

Task:

Each year the Frontiers of Flight Museum hosts the Turn Up!, an event that contains STEM exhibits and demonstration to teach kids about the wonders of Science and Math. We brought the Mobile XPerience (MXP) complete with laptops, 3D printers, and LEGO SumoBot to help teach. Outside the RV we had laptops set up where we taught kids how to code EV3 sumo bots and battle them , we also taught kids how to create their own key chains on SketchUp and 3-D print them. Inside the RV we had more SketchUp latops set up as well as the educational Minecraft servers where the kids could learn how to build structures. As well, we demonstrated our FTC competition robot and Argos by driving them around the museum we got younger kids excited about robotics by giving them balls and letting them "feed" the robot.

Reflections

Going to event like the Dallas Love Field turn up allows us to introduce kids to the wonders of STEM and robotics and help prepare them for their futures from an early age. Helping introduce our community to STEM career is a really integral part of this team and we hope to inspire many more youths through programs like this.

Darshan's Farewell

08 Jul 2017
Darshan's Farewell By Darshan

Task: Adios mis amigos

Well... this is somewhat of a bittersweet moment for me. All of us seniors are leaving for college in hopes of spreading our horizons and making something of ourselves, but we're leaving this team that has become almost a second family. It's been a good few years since I first joined this team and I never thought that I would even make it to this point. I've learned so much in my tenure with this team, from all the technical stuff that goes into the robot building process itself, to building my teamwork and communication skills, and that has actually been one of the things I've enjoyed most. Meting new people and teaching both kids and parents the importance of the STEM field has been great especiaclly, when you see their faces light up. I've made many friends through this team and I know I'll keep in touch with some for a long time. The experiences I've had here are some that will last a lifetime, from riding in the RV all the way to Arkansas to the time we finaly made it SuperRegionals. But we've had our fair share of dissaapointment as well as sucess, but as a team we always bounced back. Something I hope the future of this team continues to do, succeed and bounce back. Hopefully y'all make it to Worlds next year XD. And in the words of YFN Lucci: "EVERYDAY WE LIT!!!" p.s. lil yachty

Omar's Farewell

08 Jul 2017
Omar's Farewell By Omar

Task: Bye :'(

Hooray for graduation! Sort of. As we seniors write our farewell blog posts before we head to college, we have a lot of years to think about. In my case, I only have my 4 years of high school to pull from, but that's more than enough to express my gratitude for being on this team. I've learned so much in so many different areas, and not just scientific ones. I've learned about being on a team, about the logistics of managing said team, and about reaching out to my local community to spread STEM to the next generation of scientists and engineers. I've made a ton of awesome friends, as well as improved my personal and group communication skills (which were lacking before and are still lacking now, but they've still improved a ton). I hope I can apply some of my knowledge to my future, so that I may one day have a Lamborghini and drive around Beverly Hills. My best wishes to the team for the future! (You're going to worlds next year. -_-)

NSTA 2017

15 Jul 2017
NSTA 2017 By Ethan, Evan, Caitlin, Jayesh, Omar, Tycho, and Charlotte

Task: Expose our MXP to teachers nationwide

Background

For readers who don't know what the MXP is, here's a quick description. Our coach had been floating the idea of a mobile STEM lab for a while, and he was finally given the go-ahead and some money by his company, BigThought. Originally, he planned for buying a van and loading it with tech, but like all true Iron Reign projects, it grew quickly. It turns out that a used RV and a van are roughly the same price, and why not go all out if you can? So, we ended up with a RV old enough to drink sitting in our coaches' driveway. Of course, to convert a RV with outdated shag carpet and a Sea View insignia on the dashboard into a state-of-the-art mobile tech lab, you need free labor. And, where else to get free labor than 11 robotics nerds who have nothing better to do with their summer?

That's where we, the robotics nerds with nothing better to do with out summer, come in. We ripped up the shag carpet, destroyed the bathroom and bedroom, and laid new flooring and installed tech workstations in every part of the RV possible. And along the way, Best Buy, BigThought, and Dallas City of Learning caught wind of our project and gave us grants, allowing us to install four 3D printers, 40 laptops, and 10 EV3 Robotics Kits to educate kids.

The purpose of this is to deliver STEM programs to under-privliged kids in the Dallas area, in hopes of inspiring them to go into STEM fields. As well, the MXP can help close the summer achievement gap, where kids in lower economic brackets tend to forget more over the summer than richer kids. We're also targeted towards middle schoolers - they're of the age where they're learning that they probably won't be an astronaut, and showing them alternative options that are still interesting is extremely important.

Aboard the RV, we run two programs. In front and/or outside, we teach kids EV3 programming to compete in a sumo-bots competition. While kids won't be able tp directly learn from the EV3 programming language, they can take the abstract skills they learn from programming the robot and apply them to other programming and learning endevours later in life. In the back, we teach kids how to 3D model using Google Sketchup, and allow them to create and print their own keychain to take home as a keepsake.

The Trip

The NSTA Convention is a meeting of teachers from all over America and 12 other countries to hold seminars, panels, and presentations for teaching certificates. We were invited there due to our work on the MXP and its success in Dallas. We worked on the floor of the convention, with booths from various companies and agencies also presenting.

We started our trip to Kississime, Florida at 8:40 in the morning, way too early for us high school students in the summer. It was a long, boring drive. The highlight, or anti-highlight of the drive is that halfway through our first day, we started billowing black smoke as we pulled off the interstate. We pulled over on a residential farm road in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, we were assisted in our engine troubles by a guy who happened to see us pull over across the road from his house. He helped us fix our engine and drove our coach to the mechanic's, and we were on our way yet again.

Our first day at the convention was a quarter day. We started at the convention at 4:30p, and ended at 6:30. Despite our limited time, it was probably our most productive day. We talked to over 150 teachers from all over America about our experience building and manning the MXP, and gave advice on building their own. We also allowed the teachers to make and print their own keychains if they wanted.

Our second day was just like the first day, but four times as long. We brought our Argos, our color following robot. We recently fitted him with a new power distribution module by REV Robotics so that we could test it out before the new season. As well, Argos is our Vuforia-testing robot, so we demonstrated that ability too. Our coach also presented on a panel that day. As a finale to that day, we got to see Veritasium's presentation on "The Power of Un".

On the last day, we didn't present to as many people, but we got to have better and more in-depth discussions with everyone who came onboard. We had teachers that designed keychains and programmed robots for over an hour. As well, we presented to the president of the NSTA.

On the way back, we had to engage in one of three Florida pasttimes, and we didn't want to get arrested or get eaten by an alligator. So, we settled on the less permanetly damaging option, and went to the beach instead.

Reflections - One Last Ride

The convention was a roaring success. I estimate that we talked to about 400 teachers from all over America. We can say that we probably inspired teachers from 4-6 other cities to start research and development on building their own RVs. Also, we talked about running a FTC team to interested teachers and FIRST in general.

Even though, this trip was bittersweet. This was the last Iron Reign trip with the original senior members. Caitlin and Jayesh have been on the team for over one-third of their lives, and this was their final ride as members of Iron Reign. I, personally, have worked with them since 4th grade - one-half of my life! And, as all last rides go, one must find happiness that it was a good one, and that it ever happened. Caitlin and Jayesh have been great advisors and friends, and they deserve the best of luck in college and in the real world.

Moon Day at Frontier of Flight Museum

22 Jul 2017

Today, Iron Reign was invited to the Frontier of Flight Museum by Dallas Love Field Airport for a day of STEM knowledge for its annual "Moon Day". It was time for us to bring in the LEGO robotics kit, 4 laptops for kids, ARGOS, and Juggernaut, our competition bot from this past season. Upon arrival at the museum, we noticed many other fascinating stations such as one explaining NASA's new rover and a model in the arena. We paired up with some other robotics members in the region to set up a station where we could help robotics beginners program the LEGO bots so that the bots could wrestle eachother like Sumo wrestlers. In addition, we fixed ARGOS so that the color sensor would be able to sense a stick in front of it to follow the sign. This allowed us to let other students drive the bot. The same was done with Juggernaut.

Our LEGO station was set up in a way such that even people who couldn't type could use it. We helped people code a bot that drives forward till the bot reached the edge of the board, turns backwards, rotates, and then repeats these reactions until the program is terminated. The students learned that the robot was able to determine when it reached the edge of the board by using the color sensor located on the bottom of the robot. Since the board is built in a dartboard sort of manner with the majority being black and a white ring around the edge, the robot was taught by the students to only stay on the black and not continue if the sensor is on the white. The students had the ability to individually change the speeds of their bots so that when the compete with one another in the "Sumo" game, there could be a winner.

We decided to use ARGOS and Juggernaut as play bots for the day and drove both around. While doing so, we discovered that ARGOS had a bug which, though controllable, was inconvenient. ARGOS' movement system was developed in a way such that the acceleration would compound based on the number of seconds the joystick was pressed in a certain direction. Currently, ARGOS had to be coded this way since we didn't have encoders and power was the only way to put speed into the wheels. We are currently working on fixing this problem. Regardless, we were able to drive ARGOS around and let other children control it using the color sensor stick we developed. The stick was developed in a way that the bot would shine a light onto the area in front of it and if it found the image we had for the color to detect, ARGOS knew to move. We programmed Juggernaut in a similar way so students were able to drive it as well. Since Juggernaut also had shooting abilities, we were able to play catch with numerous people in the area including booth sponsors. In this way, we were able to teach others about the shooting mechanism and carwash system developed to pick up balls in the bot. This fascinated many young people and inspired them to pursue a STEM activity.

Numerous students from a wide array of backrounds came to Moon Day and we were able to spread the knowledge of robotics to them. We had many parents and educators ask us about ways to get involved and we gave them more information about FIRST and their message of Gracious Professionalism. Robotics gave us an avenue to connect with kids, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, gender, or beliefs. This allowed us to make a deep impact on people and join forces with them to pursue something we are all passionate about. In a world filled with discrimination against those of certain groups, the Frontier of Flight Museum gave us a chance to move people by the wonders of robotics and encourage them to pursue what they want in life without caring about the discriminators. We hope to continue to make an impact on people through future events.

So, You're Writing a Blog Post

23 Jul 2017
So, You're Writing a Blog Post By Ethan

Frontmatter

layout: Do not touch.
title: Title of your article (you can't use hyphens or colons.) tags: Enter as comma seperated list, case insensitive. Try to use one award and one normal tag

  • Tips - tips and tricks for other teams.
  • Journal - working on the journal, blog, and posts like this one.
  • Outreach - volunteering and special events. Ex. Moonday, NSTA
  • Mechanical - work on the robot, parts, building, ect.
  • Software - programming.
  • Business - grants, funding, ect.
  • Organization - organizing, cleaning physical things.
  • Video - if you have a video, nothing else.
  • Private - will NOT show up on the blog page
  • Pinned - pins post as first on the homepage until the tag is removed.
  • Inspire - (award) all around good posts, important things for judges like NSTA, or a post going over our robot in detail
  • Connect - business award
  • Innovate - design process and uniqueness award
  • Design - award about how well documented and designed your robot is
  • Motivate - recruitment, representing STEM/FIRST
  • Control - coding award

section: Choose team, engineering, or business.
personhours: Calculate using # of people * hours worked. One number.
rolecall: People who participated in the post, comma seperated. Author of post goes first.

REMEMBER: keep the space between the colon and the information, and dont touch the "---"s.

Rules

Task: Used for succinctly describing what you did
Body of Post: Describe what you did, how you did, ect..
Reflections: Used to say how something worked out, your creative process, expectations, ect.
Images: Must be 600px wide. Use as many as you'd like. Save in images.
Videos: Use the default YouTube embed.
Embedded Insta/Twitter Posts: DON'T put in the first paragraph. You will break the blog.
Filenames: Save as YYYY-MM-DD-NAME.html in _posts. If unfinished, Draft-YYYY-MM-DD-NAME.html

FTC Kickoff and First Meet

09 Sep 2017
FTC Kickoff and First Meet By Ethan, Abhi, Kenna, Austin, Karina, Tycho, and Evan

Task: View FTC Kickoff and plan for the year

Welcome to FTC Relic Recovery! For those who don't know, this year's challenge is archeology themed, and it certainly will be a challenge. The goal of this challenge is to stack 6X6 in blocks (glyphs) in certain patterns to gain as many points as possible. The are also side challenges such as balancing the robot and hitting a specific field element to gain points. Due to the vast number of methods to score points, a robot must contain multiple mechanisms which are extremely accurate as well as quick.

Upon arrival to Williams High School in Plano, TX for the Dallas region kickoff, we quickly amazed. When the regional director, Patrick Michaud, asked the audience how many rookie teams there were, we were mesmerized by the number of hands that went up. Though the FTC organization was already very large, we noticed that the FIRST spirit and ideals of Gracious Professionalism were rapidly spreading to aspiring students of the North Texas region. This is very inspiring for both veterans and rookies because we need to work more closely than ever to mentor one another for our success in the 2017-2018 challenge.

Back to the actual game, before the game reveal, Dr. Michaud introduced the expanded compatibility for different kits and tools for this year's competition. REV robotics was present at the event and discussed their new sets of PDM's as well as new servos, etc. REV kits stuck out to us as we felt the Modern Robotics system, though did it job, had some issues. We hope to implement more REV parts this year for more accurate and efficient parts. Another change we noticed was a new set of smartphones as driver stations/robot controllers, the Motorola Moto phones. We, however, will continue to use ZTE and Samsung Galaxy S5 phones.

All teams were eagerly sitting on the edges of their seats while waiting for the 11AM official reveal of the challenge. Something unique we noticed for this year's reveal video was that there was a skit performed. We found this as enjoyable though we were all waiting for the official animation. Upon completion of the animation video, the field was unraveled and all teams were allowed to access the field and field elements. While doing so, we took note of some complications that we could run into. First, we noticed that the balancing stones had about a 2 centimeter height jump from the ground to their tops. This would mean that our robot would need to drive onto the platform which was at an elevation and then balance. Second, we noticed that the space in which the blocks needed to be placed was very tight. This means that if the robot is not very precise, it could risk the loss of valuble points and time. Lastly, we noticed that the furthest zone for placing the relics was a relatively long way away. Since the robot cannot touch the ground outside the field, this could create some complications, especially if we want to place both relics.

Taking these ideas back to the house, we put our minds together to identify a basic robot design. At kickoff, we noticed that the glyphs felt like the same material that the floor tiles were made of. Upon noticing this, we created a make-shift glyph to prototype with.

Upon discussion of our plans for this year, we decided to strip apart the past two years' bots apart to their elementary parts. We decided to take the 2015 bot apart completely and we isolated the mechanum base of the 2016 bot (Juggernaut). We decided that a mechanum base would be best for this year's competition due to easy maneuverability.

Reflections

We're in for a hard time this year, but I'm confident that we'll have a solid bot. I'm a little worried about the glyph-picker mechanism though, and we'll have to decide that in the next few meetings. Through the prototyping of the two intake and deposition systems, we hope to identify our design by the next couple of weeks.

MXP at Conrad HS

16 Sep 2017
MXP at Conrad HS By Ethan, Evan, Karina, Tycho, Austin, Charlotte, and Kenna

Sharing STEM opportinities with kids and their families at Conrad HS

Today, we brought the Dallas City of Learning MXP to Conrad High School to support DallasISD's parent outreach fair call PrepU Super Saturday. The focus for this Super Saturday was making parents aware of extracurricular activities available to their students in DISD. So this was a perfect event to let parents know about the robotics programs available in Dallas ISD, including Jr. FLL, FLL, FRC and FTC. The DallasISD STEM Departments was also there and since they are responsible for curating the robotics programs across the school district, we sent parents who wanted to know more over to them.

Activities

Up in the front, we started a MinecraftEDU server and had 3 computers decicated to playing it for younger kids. On the other side, we had set up computers to program EV3s for sumobots. In the back, we ran Google Sketchup on the computers to teach kids how to make keychains and other trinkets using 3D modelling and printing. Our back setup includes 4 FlashForge 3D printers, donated to us by Best Buy.

Today we presented to somewhere around 420-450 people. The MXP was ridiculously crowded at some points, up to 25 people aboard the MXP at some points. We handed out flyers about FIRST to people who visited the table next to our MXP as well, with some significant interest. About 50 keychains were completed and printed - the photo above is Austin holding our printing backlog. Almost all of them were picked up, but we weren't able to print the last 10 or so designs.

Today was a very successful day for the MXP, and we'll break our record of people talked to easily if we keep this up. We have future deployments planned soon including another Super Saturday next weekend.

MXP Event at LV Stockard Middle School

23 Sep 2017
MXP Event at LV Stockard Middle School By Charlotte, Kenna, Tycho, and Austin

STEM education for children and their parents at a DISD event

Earlier this morning, we drove the MXP to LV Stockard Middle School and participated in a DISD event. We served around ### kids ranging from The morning started off slow, but as the day went on, the MXP became more and more crowded and chaotic. Our spot was near the food and snack area, so lots of families came through after getting breakfast or lunch. We had a sumo field set up outside the vehicle and many people would stop to watch the robots fight

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